Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda 2010
IQ "Their faces, indifferent and aloof all these years, now were ready to exalt me, raise me up, paint me in colors of gallantry, a hero. But on their terms, always on their terms. I'd lived as nothing more than a canvas before them; upon me they would paint whatever they wanted to, whatever colors they chose, whatever imagery they imposed. They would see only the painting they brushed on this compliant, subservient canvas; their eyes would never delve past that thin veneer. But there was more to me than just a canvas. There were secret layers." Xing pg. 187
Xing (pronounced Shing) is a Chinese immigrant and one of two Asian kids at his all white school. His best friend is Naomi who is also Chinese. Xing is an outsider and it doesn't always bother him. Sometimes he doesn't mind it, especially when it gives him and Naomi more time to hang out. Other times he wants to be popular, to be noticed. Children are starting to disappear and no one has any clue as to whom the culprit might be. Xing's status as a loner helps him see and hear things that others might miss. "Ultimately, Xing must choose between living his life in the shadows and revealing his true self to the world, leading to a chilling climax that will resonate long after the final page is turned." (quote from back cover).
Whoa, the back cover blurb is so right, the ending will stay with you. Granted I just finished the book yesterday but I'm still struggling to come to terms with it. I had to immediately email Ah Yuan to discuss it (and that is why I love book blogs because I can do that). Now some people have said they expected the ending, others said it was a complete surprise. In the back of my mind I had considered the ending a possibility, but I pushed the thought away. Since I'm new to the mystery genre I can't really attest to how well the author does in comparison to others in building the suspense, but I thought he did a fantastic job. There are a few people you can rule out, but most of the characters say/do suspicious things that are never fully explained.*SPOLIER: Highlight to read I should clarify that it's obvious who the killer is, I knew it had to be Jan or her father, but I was shocked that Xing was arrested for it. I actually thought since Jan was so in love with him that she would never do such a thing. And I wanted to see the trial so that I could know that our justice system did not fail! This story avoids falling into the trap if the typical immigrant narrative. Xing is an unreliable narrator who is often paranoid, he's always holding something back from the readers which results in the ending being left rather open. The mystery element helps this story stand out and the whole book is rather depressing and without much hope or reconciliation. The characters were excellently developed, I was able to understand many things about them and that resulted in my being puzzled/frustrated by their actions or pleased. Naomi is awesome and Jan is creepy. I didn't know what to make of Mrs. Durgenhoff or Mr. Matthewman, but that's the point.
Xing's father has died, his mother essentially ignores him and Xing is miserable. He has a beautiful voice but stops singing upon arrival in America. Perhaps one of the saddest quotes was when Xing talks about a past Halloween where he wore a white mask to be a ghost "As I moved about the neighborhood that night, I suddenly knew what it meant to be white. I saw smiles and looks never before directed at me. Oh there had been smiles and there had been friendly looks before, but never so unforced or natural. I understood then what it meant to be of likeness in America, of sameness, to be free from stilted inflections, pondering stares, strained openness. It was the unabashed simplicity of it all, the unbridled acceptance in their blue and green eyes, in their words, which struck me most." (pg. 192). This quote is sad for multiple reasons, to me it was especially sad because Xing does not feel that he fits into America and that he looks like an American. I hate that our society has taught him that. An American is not just someone white white skin, green eyes and brown hair. Americans shouldn't be generalized like that (or any other group of citizens in a country). This is such a common misconception around the world it seems, that all Americans look the same and that African Americans, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans are not real Americans. This book shows the dark side of America, not the America that I know and love. It shows that we still have a long way to go and it forces people to question their own behavior. I wasn't really able to relate to Xing constantly being looked at with suspicion because the Virgina Tech killer was Korean (and of course since all Asians look alike there is no difference between someone who is Chines and Korean. *rolls eyes*) and people thought that since Xing was so quiet that he was capable of murder. Honestly, I don't know many people in high school who think about the Virgina Tech killings anymore. They were tragic, but like Columbine, they are not something we really talk about. I had forgotten the VT killer was Chines. I was most surprised by how many people view Asian men with suspicion, I had no idea they were treated so awfully. I knew they were teased for being quiet and studious (that happens at my school) but not for being criminals. Although Xing is actually not big on school so he defies that stereotype. I did have some problems with editing (a few letters missing here and there) and word choice (at one point lights are described as being like urine and I just thought that imagery was gross. Although I suppose quite effective in providing a description).
Crossing is a mystifying and compelling read that will keep you guessing. You don't know who to believe because the characters are all so real and they make mistakes and none of them seem to fit the bill completely for the killer. Xing is a fascinating main character, he is so quiet and angry and never completely honest. However, he has a beautiful voice and he thinks deeply about things, obviously there is more to him than meets the eye. I felt so bad for him, America literally and figuratively took his voice away. The reader is allowed to make up their mind about the ending, it can be as happy or sad as you want it to be. How creepy was this book? Well, I hate really dark and scary crime shows so I need humor to alleviate the situation. Crossing is very low on humor and it was a book that I could only read in the daytime, but since I am a coward, don't take my word for it on the scary aspect of the book :) This story opened my eyes to an experience so different from my own and I am so grateful for AmazonEncore, so far the two books I have read by them (A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott and now Crossing) have been wonderful and I love that they are publishing authors who might have otherwise not gotten a chance to be published (or at least not so soon).
Disclosure: Received from publisher. Thanks Marissa!
PS This book is not described as YA but since Xing is a freshman in high school it totally works. I think adults will enjoy this one too so I'm labeling it YA and adult.