I Want Candy by Kim Wong Keltner 2008
IQ " That nine-foot ghost is a thousand years old. She's formed from the combined souls of generations of Chinese women who've lived and died without getting what they wanted out of life. They died in China, but came over here on the ships, like ballast along with the export porcelain. Those thousands of souls weighed down the hulls of hundreds of sailing ships. When they got to San Francisco, they floated through the water, seeped into the soil, and gathered in the underground passages of Chinatown. They all came together to form that nine-foot tall ghost. She's so powerful now she terrorizes people here and overseas, moving back and forth between east and west, growing stronger with each Chinese woman who dies unhappy. Do you want to add to her weight, or are you going to change your life?" Ruby pg. 207
Candace Ong is fourteen years old and wasting away in Eggroll Wonderland. Her Chinese family works hard but they don't understand her, and they don't seem to want to. They don't go to her basketball games, understand her love of rock and roll or try to learn about anything else she loves. The only person she can really talk to is Ruby, her best friend who gets pleasure out of insulting her. Ruby is "so much cooler" than Candace, and Candace is ready to finally have an adventurous and mature summer. "So when a new opportunity arises, she leaps at the chance-even though it means leaving home to experience a tantalizing, dangerous life far beyond the dim sum ho hum. But the waiting world may be a lot more than one brainiac Chinese Lolita can safely handle." (quotes taken from back cover)
The back cover doesn't tell you much about what this book is going to be about. I thought it was going to be a coming of age about a quite Chinese girl who learns to be rebellious. It's sort of like that but there is a lot of filler content that I didn't care for. Part of the problem is that the book is set in the '80s and I had no clue what Candace was talking about when she described bands she liked. Besides band references there are other references to the culture of the '80s (I only know about the hip hop and black culture of the '80s, not so much of the mainstream) but they just rolled over my head. I'm not sure this is really YA. Yes Candace is a teenager, but it just didn't have that YA feel. I know I'm not explaining it well, but this book was missing the appeal of a YA book. There's a lot of humor that I didn't get right away and both Candace and Ruby act a lot more mature than the fourteen year olds I used to know. The humor is amusing, but it's not really laugh out loud funny or sarcastic. It's just an amusing observation.
There's also a lot of time spent talking about discovering your sexuality. This is an important topic but questions are never answered here. Candace partakes in masturbation and there's too much focus on this and pornography. Her mother basically just tells her not to get pregnant and not to talk to strangers, Candace has no help in learning about her maturing body. Candace gets into some really creepy situations and she doesn't think clearly about them. She has this blind trust in strangers that is unfathomable. She would just leave her house with a short note to her parents. Candace has a lot of luck and her parents are probably the most oblivious parents I have ever come across. I understand that her immigrant parents are working really really hard, but I don't think they would completely ignore their child and let her run free. Yet, they spend time with their son, David. I did like what I shared in the Incredible Quote, the part about the ghost because I thought the story was cool. At the same time it was so random. We went from a contemporary setting with no mentions of the supernatural, to lots of supernatural events occurring. Unfortunately, the mentions of the Chinese ghost don't come till the very end and I was losing patience by then. Ruby treats Candace horribly but she's not a one dimensional villain and she's not motivated by simple jealousy either. I didn't like Ruby but I do think there is a need for more novels about soul-sucking friendships.
I Want Candy has one of the most exasperating characters I've ever come across, and not in a good way. Candace is not enjoyable to read about and I found it very hard to be sympathetic to her plight. The unexpected spurts of supernatural activity are jarring, although they do become very interesting later on. Besides Candace being annoying, all the mentions of masturbation, periods, sex, etc. aren't that endearing. I'm all for books being open about the struggles of accepting your sexuality, but this novel didn't seem to focus so much on that. It focused more on Candace being naive and going places and doing things that were just foolish. An adventure to be sure, but not one that many people would want to go on or even read about. I wouldn't recommend it, but it could be someone else's cup of tea.
Disclosure: Both. Luckily it was a bargain price of $4