|Private Label / Kelly Yang|
NY: HarperCollins, c2022.
I wanted to read this one because of its link to fashion -- the main character, Serene, is the daughter of a fashion designer, Lily Lee. And the fashion house is a big part of the story.
Serene is 17, still at high school, and she also works at her mother's business - interns, really. It's difficult to see how she manages both, timewise, but you just have to go with it. She's also dating a big blond surfer, one of the popular kids, and hangs out with the popular girls, even though she is the only Chinese person in her entire area. Until Lian Chen shows up. He's moved to this California town with his family, thanks to his Dad's new job. But his parents are quite traditional, and both he and his little sister spend most of their free time prepping for college entrance exams. Well, they're supposed to be prepping, but his sister skips lots of her prep to go to a dance studio, and Lian is trying to become a stand-up comic.
The good things about this story are the main characters - they are interesting and developed well. Their struggles with being Chinese in a bland white California town are clearly drawn, even if some of the other characters are a bit one dimensional in order to keep the story going. Serene's boyfriend is obviously a jerk right from the beginning, but she goes along with it. When she meets Lian there is an instant attraction but it's not really explained much, and it's hard to see how someone who has worked so hard to be one of the popular crowd would just suddenly flip to dating one of the very out crowd. Plus, how does she even have time for dating??
Lots of issues; her mother is diagnosed with cancer, and names Serene as the new head of Lily Lee, despite their investors' objections. The company investors want to sell; Lily wants the company to stay small and independent, and a couple of the board/investors are pretty cartoon villianish. Serene is also trying to find her birth father, in China, while dealing with her snobby social circles and her soon-to-be ex posting nudes of her online. Meanwhile, Lian is trying to develop his dreams of stand-up, against his parents' very clear expectations, and he's dealing with bullying and loneliness in America. Plus trying to date Serene on the q.t. without his parents finding out.
I found it a quick read with some interesting themes. But I did feel like there was a bit too much going on at times, and also that the romantic teenager elements clashed a bit with the Serene-as-business-maven parts. I'm not sure that both were equally believable. But as a teen read, it's quick and with lots of glamour, teen angst and rebellion to attract readers. A light summer pick with some more intense themes included.