author: Wendy Wan-Long Shang
date: Scholastic Press;
main character: Wendy Wan
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s first novel. It is the story of sixth grader, Lucy Wu, whose life is about to be ruined not only by a long lost aunt with whom she has to share a bedroom, by Talent Chang and her new Chinese school and by Sloan. Sloan and Lucy both want to be the captain of the sixth grade basketball team, Lucy because of her basketball skills and Sloan because of her well developed bullying skills. Lucy builds a physical wall in her bedroom to keep her aunt out of her life and she builds emotional and social walls to keep Sloan and Talent out. The thing with walls is that while we think they’re keeping everyone out of our space, they’re also keeping us out of everyone else’s.
Lucy is bitter about her aunt’s visit, about being forced to give up basketball for Chinese school and she’s confused about what to do about Sloan. Lucy hasn’t given up completely on her Chinese culture, she’s just at a stage in her life where she’s about to begin self actualizing, figuring out who she really is and what she really values. She’ll probably always prefer Italian food to Chinese, but nothing will bring her more satisfaction than her aunt’s noodles. We see a lot of growth in this character who experiences many situations which are true to life and easy to identify with. Shang did an excellent job of developing Lucy’s internal struggles so that her change in attitude is believable and understandable.
What didn’t I like about this book? I didn’t like that there were no samples of the dumplings, no scratch and sniff pads and no recipes. I didn’t like how well I could identify with Lucy’s ability to shut others out.
There were many idioms used in the book which, I’ve come to understand are used throughout Chinese conversations. I liked how Shang blends them into the story and echoes their moral in Lucy’s situations. Being embarrassed by relatives, having parents rain on your parade, having that one really good friend who is always there; these are things to which any middle schooler can relate. The fact that Lucy is Chinese American adds dimension and depth to the story.