Title: The Life of a Banana
Author: PP Wong
Publisher: Legend Press
Release Date: 1 September 2014
Blurb (from Goodreads): Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venemous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music,
Then Xing Li's life takes an even harsher turn: the school bullying escalates and her uncle requests she assists him in an unthinkable favour. Her happy childhood becomes a distant memory as her new life is infiltrated with the harsh reality of being an ethnic minority.
Consumed by secrets, violence and confusing family relations, Xing Li tries to find hope wherever she can. In order to find her own identity, she must first discover what it means to be both Chinese and British.
What I thought: I adore this book. The plot is excellent, delievering plenty of twists and turns, some of which hit me like a punch in the gut. I always wanted to know more about the lives of the characters and I was interested as to what was going to happen for the entire book.
The characters in this book are brilliant. Our protagonist, Xing Li, just felt so real to me. I wanted to protect her from the horrible things she went through, but there was nothing I could do and I watched as the bullying went from bad to worse and I just felt really sad because even though I know what it feels like to be an outsider at school, I never went through anything like this. It saddens me to think that a lot of people go through this every day. I loved her mispronunciation of the musical greats. Xing Li's voice felt so real and the whole time I was reading this book I felt like I was listening to the voice of a thirteen year old, which was awesome. I loved watching her grow.
I really liked her brother, and he made me laugh through his funny antics and his endearing personality. I cared very much about Auntie Mei and she made me think about the stereotypical roles given to Chinese actors, and how very hard it must be to break down those walls.
Xing Li's Grandmother is a complicated and deeply flawed character who we get to learn more about as the book progresses. I can't say anything more about her, as I don't want to spoil anything.
This book made me think a lot about racism. I fail to understand how people can be rude to others just by the colour of their skin or what nationality they are. It's an absolute disgrace and those people should be very ashamed of themselves. I also thought a lot about stereotype. It was mentioned in this book that if you are part of an ethnic minority in a foreign country, the way you behave affects how people see others of your nationality. For example, if a Chinese person is rude then people will think that all Chinese people are rude. This really struck me and I'm still thinking about it now.
There are a couple of very sensitive issues discussed in this book, and I think that PP Wong handled these issues very well. The bullying in this book was extremely well handled and well written. There was one particular seen that I found very harrowing and I was reading the words with tears in my eyes, making my vision blurry.
This is Xing Li's story, and I loved following her on her journey towards finding herself. I hope that many others will read it too as it is a tale that deserves to be told. I loved it so much. It truly is excellent.
Rating: 10/10. Yeah. This is now the benchmark for the contemporary novels I read.