Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

This book has every­thing going for it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wind up car­ing about the char­ac­ters, and you’ll want to eat at the Gold­en Palace in Last Chance, Min­neso­ta. Mys­ter­ies, his­to­ry, and con­tem­po­rary fic­tion are all part of this page-turner.

The main sto­ry is told by Maizy Chen, an 11-year-old from Los Ange­les. At the begin­ning of sum­mer break, Maizy’s sin­gle mom, a suc­cess­ful food styl­ist, declares that they’re dri­ving to Min­neso­ta because her father is ill. Maizy has only seen these grand­par­ents once so every­thing this trip is … con­fus­ing for her.

Maizy Chen's Last Chance

Maizy starts out won­der­ing how she will ever sur­vive sum­mer in this small, small town. Then she won­ders how she will ever leave.

Along the way, we meet a cast of mem­o­rable char­ac­ters like Lady Mac­beth, a woman Maizie believes is rich and mean, May­or Whit­lock, who was once a respect­ed jour­nal­ist and wants to be again, and Wern­er Wern­er, a man who was once her grand­fa­ther’s best friend before they had a falling out.

Dur­ing the sum­mer in Last Chance, Maizy has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to know her grand­par­ents, Oma and Opa, much bet­ter. From Opa, she learns a great deal about the Chi­nese immi­grants’ expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca, begin­ning with her great-great-grand­fa­ther Lucky Chen’s arrival in 1853. What a sto­ry he has!

I learned so many expert­ly woven-in facts about Chi­nese immi­grants in Amer­i­ca, thanks to Opa’s sto­ry­telling and Maizy’s sub­se­quent research to find the “paper sons” who were helped along their way by the Chen family.

As author Lisa Yee writes in her Author’s Note, “As I was fin­ish­ing the final chap­ters of Maizy’s sto­ry, hate crimes against Asian Amer­i­cans were on the rise. I was torn apart and won­dered, ‘What can I do?’ Then I told myself — keep writing.” 

You’ll be glad she did. This is a book that offers under­stand­ing, open­ing our hearts and minds, all with­in a com­pelling sto­ry that will leave you yearn­ing for more time with the Chen fam­i­ly and the res­i­dents of Last Chance, Minnesota.

Don’t over­look the Author’s Note and Bib­li­og­ra­phy. They’re valu­able parts of this book.

High­ly recommended.

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
writ­ten by Lisa Yee
Ran­dom House Chil­dren’s Books, 2022
ISBN 978 – 1984830258
sug­gest­ed for ages 8 and up

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