Finally Seen (Hardcover)
March/April 2023 Kids Indie Next List
“Growing up a Chinese-American girl in a mostly white neighborhood, I identified so much with Lina’s struggles to see herself in literature. Finally Seen inspires children who have never seen themselves as heroes in books to be heroes themselves.”
— Donna Liu, Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, CA
My sister got to grow up with my parents. Me? I grew up with postcards from my parents.
When ten-year-old Lina Gao steps off the plane in Los Angeles, it’s her first time in America and the first time seeing her parents and her little sister in five years! She’s been waiting for this moment every day while she lived with her grandmother in Beijing, getting teased by kids at school who called her “left behind girl.” Finally, her parents are ready for her to join their fabulous life in America! Except, it’s not exactly like in the postcards:
1. School’s a lot harder than she thought. When she mispronounces some words in English on the first day, she decides she simply won’t talk. Ever again.
2. Her chatty little sister has no problem with English. And seems to do everything better than Lina, including knowing exactly the way to her parents’ hearts.
3. They live in an apartment, not a house like in Mom’s letters, and they owe a lot of back rent from the pandemic. And Mom’s plan to pay it back sounds more like a hobby than a moneymaker.
As she reckons with her hurt, Lina tries to keep a lid on her feelings, both at home and at school. When her teacher starts facing challenges for her latest book selection, a book that deeply resonates with Lina, it will take all of Lina’s courage and resilience to get over her fear and choose a future where she’s finally seen.
— Booklist, starred review
"Yang covers a lot of ground, from immigrant experiences and socio-economic inequities to climate change and middle school angst. The plotline that really stands out, however, is when Lina discovers that books can comfort the struggling, link people together, and create changes both internal and external. This theme propels the action through the book’s satisfying climax when she must decide whether to use her voice to stop a book that she loves from being banned in her classroom.
Timely and pointed."
— Kirkus Reviews
"As Lina attempts to adapt, facing bullying at school, she finds solace in the form of an encouraging teacher, new friends, and the school library. And gradually, when a class book selection that resonates deeply with Lina is challenged, her growing confidence develops into a tool she can use to speak out. In a thematically wide-ranging, character-driven novel, Yang (Front Desk) highlights the importance of representation alongside one child’s experience of navigating a complex reality."
— Publishers Weekly
"Yang does a skillful job in portraying Lina’s multitude of emotions. There’s the sadness of leaving her grandmother behind in a Chinese nursing home and the isolation and loneliness stemming from her imperfect English. Issues of racism and class come up when Lina is teased at school, an Asian American graphic novel is targeted for censorship, and her parents struggle to be paid fairly and to get updates on their green card applications."
— Horn Book Magazine
"Yang's earnest, heartfelt novel approaches immigration and family from a contemporary point of view, including the pains and injustices felt by many during the pandemic. Her characters are a strong point of the book and, as Lina gets to know each multifaceted individual, she becomes a part of the community. Finally Seen is, as Lina would say, "a sliding door" into a world many have never experienced and "a mirror" for those who have."
— Shelf Awareness