Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee 2009
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
IQ "I don't care if you're Thai, Chinese, French or from Mars. You'll still be mine, all mine, no matter what. God, I love you, Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider!" Maybe pg. 272
Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut (she was named after mascara and various Miss Americas, just call her Maybe) has had enough. Her mother, Chessamay (Chessy) Chestnut Abajian Wing Marshall Wing Sincalir Alvarez is getting married again, for the seventh time. The men Chessy marries are almost always jerks. However, the latest husband is a particular sleazeball. Once again, Chessy chooses a man over Maybe so Maybe decides to go find her father in L.A. Maybe has never met her father, she doesn't even know his name since he never got married her mother and her mother refuses to talk about him. Maybe's best friends Ted and Hollywood (who is going to USC) head to L.A. with her, where they meet some interesting characters. They see the best and the worst of L.A. from movie stars to taco trucks to the homeless.
This is probably one of my favorite friendship novels of all time. Maybe, Hollywood and Ted (Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider) are fantastic. as seen in the IQ above, they are deeply loyal to each other and completely accepting. I mean, how many of your friends would head off on a road trip to California with you? (well Hollywood was already going since he got in to USC but Ted had no reason to go). Ted is organized, smart, a know it all, dynamic and short. He gets terrible grades and he is very in-your-face, in fact he can be quite arrogant, but he is so so lovable! Hollywood (Daniel Jones, one of the few main characters who doesn't have an extremely long name), is quiet, a white boy with an Afro and an aspiring filmmaker. These characters have layers and you will fall in love with them as you learn more and more about them. After much thought I have come to the conclusion that Ted is my favorite character. He's from Thailand and was adopted, but his white parents really want him to connect with his culture, so they take him to Thai Cultural Club meetings so that he can learn about the language, food and traditions. They cook Thai food fro him and he calls them Maah and Paww (Thai for mother and father). The relationship between Ted and his parents is absolutely adorable and Ted deserves his own novel. I love Little Willow's title idea of Definitely Ted (which we discussed during the readergirlz chat with Lisa Yee that I participated in). Maybe is a rebel, a fighter and an amazing individual. She dyes her hair various different colors (pink, blue, etc.) and she wears baggy clothes, disregarding fashion. Her mother runs a charm school and is appalled by Maybe's lack of fashion sense and her disregard for proper makeup technique. Sammy was the most amazing father-like figure, Willow made me laugh (unintentionally), Ridgeway was fresh and random and even the reclusive Miss Gloria De Tour (a famous actress in the movie whose career is just about over, she takes a strong liking to Ted) added something to the story.
At first, every time I saw the word "Maybe", I thought the characters were just always very indecisive, it took me a little while to remember and get used to the fact that when the characters said "Maybe" they were talking to the character, not trying to make up their minds! I think the outcome of Maybe's search for her father was fairly predictable, but that's OK because it's realistic and not really what the novel is about anyway. Maybe touches people wherever she goes, pushing them to follow their dreams, but sometimes she neglects to inspire and help herself. Sometimes she seemed to just give up, which was understandable but other times I wondered why she was so unresisting (like when her guy friends basically refused to help her anymore and she ended up homeless. Or when they made her sleep on the floor). The novel is a bit unrealistic (especially Ted's job), but that adds to the appeal of the novel. Maybe ends up working at a taco truck and the author does a great job of making you salivate over her descriptions of various types of tacos. There is a lack of taco trucks in my neighborhood, but I will be taking a trip to the city in order to find one :)
Absolutely Maybe is a charming story with original characters that make for a funny, fresh read. Be prepared to have some tacos on hand to eat while you read this book. This book is a great summer read, it takes place over the summer and it's so much fun with the outrageous characters and crazy situations. I did get frustrated with Maybe at times, but I was invested in her well being and happiness throughout the whole book. She's a heroine you will find yourself cheering for and you may even be inspired to dye your hair (hmm any suggestions for a hair color for someone with black hair??) ;)
Disclosure: Won from Lizzy at Cornucopia of Reviews. Thanks Lizzy!
Check out the cover story of Absolutely Maybe to see the different covers considered (I wish they had used the last one with Ted and Maybe, Ted is so cute!)
Off color reviews are reviews of books that are by authors of color but not about POC and/or the main character is white, but there are important secondary characters of color.