The Book Cellar
“A story that’s sure to stick with you for a long time.” —BuzzFeed
“More than a coming-of-age novel.” —School Library Journal
“[An] inventive, deeply heartfelt love story that explores connections of many kinds.” —Booklist
A teen outcast is simultaneously swept up in a whirlwind romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Taiwanese family moves to her small, predominantly white midwestern town in this remarkable novel from the critically acclaimed author of American Panda.
Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, pronounced Āh-lěe, after the mountain in Taiwan.
Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the “they belong together” whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.
But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.
Snippets of a love story from 19th-century China (a retelling of the Chinese folktale The Butterfly Lovers) are interspersed with Ali’s narrative and intertwined with her fate.