Mai is looking forward to her summer at the beach with her best friend, and the boy who she has a huge crush on when she gets terrible news. She will have to spend the summer with her grandmother in Vietnam. Her grandmother has never been able to accept the disappearance of her husband during the war, and may finally have the opportunity to find out what happened to him. As much as she screams and cries it is unavoidable, and before she knows it she is in the hot and humid climate of Vietnam. She is figuring out how to make friends and survive in a completely different world, but will they ever find out what happened to her grandfather?
This book is a very sweet portrayal of a young and selfish girl, who is made to think of someone other than herself. Mai starts off spoiled and sullen about the whole trip, but eventually she realizes that some things in the world are a bigger deal than the beach, and the boy who she pines after. She does an amazing amount of growing up in such a short time! I loved the setting of Vietnam, it is obvious that the author has first hand experience. She paints a picture that makes me feel like I am there, or at the very least that makes me want to be there. She talks about the culture with such love and beauty. I thought that the lesson that friendship and family go beyond the boundaries of language was important. I loved the examples of communication that parted from our typical ways of speaking. Also, I must say, I probably wouldn’t have read this book if not for the beautiful cover, but I am glad that I did.