TITLE: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones
AUTHOR: Katherine Webber
PUBLISHER: Delacorte Press
PUBLISHED DATE: March 14, 2017
I was very excited to read this book. A Chinese/African American heroine who practices self care by running. I was here for it. And then I read the book.
And ended up doing this throughout the book. There is a lot going on in the book, and without revealing too much, I will try to explain what I liked and didn't like about this book.
The story begins alright enough. Wing is a typical teenager - awkward and unsure of herself - particularly about her big hair and big butt. She's Chinese and African American (...later we learn Ghanaian - but it's only mentioned, and not a part of the story). She doesn't look like anyone else, and relies on the popularity of her older brother Marcus and his beautiful blonde girlfriend, Monica, to get by in school. Wing has a crush on Marcus' best friend, Aaron, and the four go on an outing to Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles a staple soul food restaurant in Atlanta. This was my first double take. I'm a 90's kid, and remember hearing about when the famed restaurant opened. It had become a goal of mine to go the restaurant, so I had to recheck the year the story takes place in. The story takes place in 1995. Gladys Knight's restaurant didn't open until 1997. A small thing, I know...but people who know will notice. The scene at Gladys Knight became more troubling to me as Wing describes the experience. The food starts off good, and then goes soggy. While there, it's the description of Monica in the restaurant I found troubling. With her blonde hair and beauty she glows and sparkles in the center of this restaurant in contrast with the darkness of the patrons of the restaurant. I was like..
After they leave the restaurant, a fatal event occurs, and all of the characters are shaped by the event. Wing finds her passion for running, and a mantra is born...she gains momentum and inspiration from her dragon and lion. This is what she calls her two grandmothers, one Chinese, and one Ghanaian (who reads more like an African American stereotype, than a Ghanaian grandmother). This stuck with me. Why are they dragon and lion? Where did this come from in the story? Are these just euphemisms alluding to the racial makeup of the women?
I wasn't charmed by this, and just kind of rolled my eyes every time she refers to them as animals - which was a lot.
The romance between Wing and Aaron - though there's an almost sex scene at the beach which didn't seem very believable to me. Perhaps the part I found most accurate was Marcus' reaction to his life when he discovers the post Gladys-Knight-restaurant-carnage...but I had to wait until nearly the very end of the book for a sliver of accuracy, which is overshadowed by the lack of accuracy in speaking to what legally would have happened. It's barely even mentioned.
The setting of the story paints a fairly bleak portrait of Atlanta as a ghetto filled with homeless people, dirt, and crime. Their high school, predominantly African American, seems to be full of aggressive weave wearing girls, with Monica as the prettiest girl, and the mildest - initially she's the only girl in school Wing can connect with. The stereotype of the aggressive African American woman is not limited to the girl's in Wing's school, Wing's grandmother, Granny Dee is another casualty. Frequently seen as having an attitude, and even brandishes a knife on Wing's gentler, yet covertly sinister Lao Lao. It's interesting that she put both grandmothers in the same house - and as you would suspect - it is a source of drama and tension.
All in all I wasn't a fan of this one. I don't think I got a good representation of a biracial kid, or an African American, or a Ghanaian, or a Chinese person. If you take out the sprinkling of race, what you're left with is a fairly run-of-the-mill YA book.
*I recieved this ARC on Netgalley.
Recommendation: If you have the desire to see for yourself, you should! You may very well like the book, reviews on Goodreads, for the most part, are positive.
Audience: Young Adults
*I recieved the ARC from Netgalley.
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