4 out of 4 stars
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If you enjoy a good political mystery, I highly recommend The Blu Phenomenon by Catherine Pike Plough. Delve into the world of Asian/American adoptees and see if the end doesn't leave you with more questions than answers. The great land of China has seen so much. From the great emperors to the communist takeover and the current tight regime, much of that country is a mystery to most Americans. We are familiar with the "one child policy," but do we realize how many babies have been aborted or abandoned because of this rule? Many remember the Tienanmen Square protests, but not many outside of Asia understand what it is like to actually live in China. As is true anywhere, some in China are comfortable with status quo; some silently chaff, but others become the rebels—the resistance. Follow the story of two American children, one boy and one girl, adopted from China. Are they just like any other Asian adoptee, or is something more going on? Why does Cal who is 100% Asian have blue eyes? Why was Cal brought to America as a small infant without the standard wait in an orphanage like his friend, Lilli?
Overall, The Blu Phenomenon has the feel of a typical juvenile novel. The protagonists are teenagers, going through all the angst typical of that age. Mystery shrouds several of the other characters. The author cleverly strings out the clues in order to save the punch for the very end. Cal and Lilli are believable, as are their other friends, Levi and his brother Derek. The setting and secondary plotlines feel familiar, as though this could all happen in your own high school.
The chance given Cal to train for the Olympics feels somewhat surreal, but even that makes sense, given the context. In real life, would it not be strange to one day have a somewhat normal, if not predictable, life and the next have an Olympic coach show up out of virtually nowhere? The mystery thickens when Cal decides to actively search for his biological family. Again, the reader is presented with more questions than answers.
Both juvenile fiction and political commentary, The Blu Phenomenon presents a problem with the current politics in China as well as a hypothetical solution. This interesting juxtaposition makes it possible to recommend the book to both teenagers and adults. I was engrossed in the fictional story from page one. The author interspersed authentic conversational dialog with the right amount of mental dialog and descriptive text in a way that never seemed forced. The plot drives forward with the right momentum, neither boring you with tedious details nor jumping ahead so you cannot catch up. Overall, the pace was "just right."
This book is edited extremely well; I didn't find even a single error throughout the entire book. The author kept the book exceedingly clean; there is no profanity and no suggestive or lewd behavior. The focus on Cal and Lilli and the mystery of Cal's Asian heritage stays consistently tight. I had only one complaint about the whole book: the ending. While reading, I felt there were a couple of directions that the plot could go. This was yet another detail that helped to hold my interest. However, when I got toward the end, the conclusion hit me with a speed that did not match the rest of the story. I felt somewhat of a let down when "it" happened, as the ending came rather suddenly. I was expecting to see more of the puzzle pieces put into place before the plot finale. If I could, I would take away a half a star for the abrupt ending, giving the book 3.5 stars. However, since that is not an option, and the rest of the book was written so well, I give the book 4 out of 4 stars.
The Blu Phenomenon
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