I read the Parachutes by Kelly Yang audiobook in just 4 days, and I relished every minute of it!
I am trying very hard to get back to my book review roots. I started this blog in 2011 mainly for book reviews for librarians. I’ve gotten away from that in the past few years, so I am working to find my way back. My family had a lot of sudden and major life changes when the pandemic hit, and it’s just been tough to focus on reading much.
I’m excited to report that I’ve been able to focus on fiction audiobooks lately! I had tried that many times, even before the pandemic, but my mind would drift off when listening to fiction. I’m easily-distracted! Books like Parachutes show me that yes, I can focus on audiobooks on my morning walks.
SUMMARY OF PARACHUTES BY KELLY YANG
Dual narrative alternates between Claire and Dani, both 16-year old juniors at an elite private school. Claire is from an uber-wealthy Chinese family. Her parents send her to live with a host family (Dani’s) so she can avoid the gaokao, a major exam for Chinese high school students.
Dani is a Filipino-American scholarship student at the same school Claire attends. Dani and her mother clean the houses of wealthy Chinese families and struggle to pay the bills every month. Claire’s family pays Dani’s family a badly-needed $2000/month for room and board while Claire attends Dani’s school.
Obviously, there is a serious culture clash here, and the two girls do not get along right from the start. Dani sees Claire as privileged, spoiled, and shallow. Claire tries to be nice, but she starts off on the wrong foot and stays there. Both Claire and Dani deal with racism, sexism, and classism in different ways throughout the book.
THE SHORT VERSION
I LOVED the Parachutes audiobook so much that I had a hard time turning it off. I see that it is a whopping 496 pages, which is shocking to me. It really didn’t feel any longer than any other YA book, probably because I was just that into the story.
WHAT I LIKED
The Parachutes audiobook is outstanding. Props to the two narrators–Cassie Simone and Karissa Vacker for creating an audiobook that is well-paced and clear. I do not know who did which voices because there were more voices than just the main two female characters. I was totally sucked into the audiobook from the first few minutes of listening. Pressing STOP was not easy!
There were surprises! I had at least two moments where I audibly gasped while listening. Very cool and unexpected.
The characters feel like real people. All of them have flaws. Even Dani, who stands so solidly by her morals, gets it wrong from time to time. Claire encounters many struggles in her sudden move from Shanghai to LA. I have done the opposite move–from Fort Worth, Texas to Shanghai–and the culture shock is no joke.
Speaking of Shanghai, I loved all the references to life in Shanghai. From the pollution to the super-firm mattresses to The Bund to the fact that international schools in China require foreign passports…all of that is spot-on from my experience. Tiger mums (like Claire’s mother), the difficulty of the gaokao exam, the crazy-expensive cars…all of that is quite familiar from my six years living in Shanghai and Suzhou.
I love how Dani and Claire both experience racism, sexism, and classism in different ways. Dani especially thinks beautiful, wealthy Claire has it so easy, but she really doesn’t at all. The conflicts between the girls feels real and honest.
I appreciate how Claire and Dani really try to understand one another, but due to their backgrounds, they just do not see eye to eye. Both Claire and Dani are good, honest young women dealing with a lot of discrimination in their daily lives.
And ugh, that school administrator. Anything to protect the school’s reputation. Sadly, I know the type…
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. That’s pretty rare, y’all!
Very diverse! Dani and her mother are Filipino American and poor. Claire and her family are super-wealthy Chinese. Multiple friends and peers at school are Chinese or Chinese American. Two characters are lesbian. A male love interest is white. A favorite teacher is Black, but school staff and administration is stated to be mostly or all white.
Love it! Dani and Claire look just as I would picture them. I love the simplicity and colors used.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Themes: misogyny, classism, racism, discrimination, friendship, being away from one’s family and culture, debate team, academic honesty, family problems, financial worries, elite private schools, scholarship students, fighting back against the system, abuse, controlling behavior
Would adults like Parachutes by Kelly Yang? YES! I certainly loved it!
Would I buy Parachutes for my high school library? YES–I think lots of high school students could identify with Claire and Dani.
Would I buy Parachutes for my middle school library? NO–There are some mature sexual themes, including sexual intercourse, sexual harassment, oral sex, a threesome, and a rape. There is also a good amount of teen alcohol use.
Language: I think there was some profanity, including the F-word, but I don’t remember it being gratuitous. It’s possible I didn’t notice profanity because I was so absorbed in the story.
Sexuality: Sexual innuendo, multiple disgusting comments about teen girls from teen boys and adult men, unwanted sexual advances on teen girls from adult men, sexual intercourse (1 scene), rape (1 scene, “fade to black”), sexting/nude videos, oral sex (1 scene), threesome (1 scene, not described). It sounds graphic when I write it out that way, but nothing is overly-detailed for high school readers. These are issues that teens encounter and already know about.
Violence: one rape
Drugs/Alcohol: teens drink alcohol at parties and are served alcohol in bars; teens get drunk; one character’s mother is a druggie; I don’t remember any onscreen drug use among any of the characters
Other: controlling, possessive boyfriend; married father cheating on his wife
BOOKTALK OR DISPLAY THIS WITH:
Have you read Parachutes? Is it popular in your library?