Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When eleven-year-old Kimberly Chang moves to New York straight from China with her newly widowed mother, severely lacking English skills and with little help from her uncaring aunt and uncle, hope seems dim. Indeed for her first few years in America the young genius struggles in a rat and cockroach-infested apartment, working every day after school in a Chinatown sweatshop. But gradually, as her English improves and she pushes herself onward–even getting accepted into her dream schools–she begins to create a beautiful future for herself. Until, that is, the day she realizes she must choose between love and the future she wants for herself and her family. In this touching coming-of-age novel about hard work, social inequality, friendship, first love, and infatuation, Kwok paints a beautifully realistic portrait of a teenager struggling and succeeding to take control of her own destiny.