Summary: Finally Seen
In Finally Seen, Lina is finally moving to the US to reunite with her parents after five years apart. She’d been living with her grandmother in China, but now her grandmother is ill, and her parents want her to come to North Carolina with them and her little sister Millie.
But when she arrives, nothing about their life is as her parents have told her. They live in an apartment, not a house like her mom said and her parents owe a ton of back rent after the pandemic. Her dad is an organic farmer and her mom is trying hard to launch a bath bomb business with little capital. Things aren’t any easier at school with Lina’s poor English. When she finally finds a graphic novel she loves and her teacher wants the class to read it, influential parents at her school are determined to stop it from being read. Will Lina use her voice?
I mean, it’s Kelly Yang — the writing is well-paced, and the characters are very well-developed. Lina is a bright character and her feelings are so relatable. She loves her family but feels a bit cheated by her little sister who’s grown up with their love and speaks fluent English. Her curious and open demeanor is immediately squashed at school when the kids mock her accent and poor English. But I loved that she made a good friend and found her confidence through books again.
Yang really delves into the challenges immigrants face: leaving a child behind, worrying about a grandparent who can’t come and visit, and just struggling financially. Then add racial prejudice to the plate and it’s all a lot. It’s obvious the author has had personal experience with these challenges and she conveys everything authentically.
Finally, the work conditions Lina’s father has to cope with are just terrible. His boss is mean-spirited (despite the fact that he’s had his own life challenges) and unfair. I liked the glimpse into the farm work and liked seeing Lina make a new friend there as well.
Overall: Finally Seen
Finally Seen is a moving, inspiring, and insightful middle grade book about immigration, family, and sisterhood. It’s also a relatable portrait of a family wading through murky financial waters and a kid finding confidence at school. Fans of Kelly Yang and Front Desk, and kids who enjoy books about immigration and book activism will gobble this one up.