Skip to main content

YA Book Review Parachutes by Kelly Yang


Parachutes by Kelly Yang 
TW: Sexual Assault
Overview: Claire and Dani start out feeling like they live on two different planets. Claire has lived a glamorous life in China, cared for by live-in help and constantly picked up after. Every argument with her dad ends in a new purse or pair of shoes, and she's never had to seriously want for anything. Dani and her mom work for a housecleaning service to stay afloat. She attends American Prep on scholarship and works hard to fund her debate travel. Eventually, her mom signs up to host an international student to make a little extra money. While Claire and Dani originally clash, their experiences over the course of the school year make them realize they have more in common than they originally thought. Overall: 5 

Characters: 5 Every single character in this books was so well drawn and thoroughly paid attention to. Through subtle nuances, even the most minor characters were stunningly clear and realistic. Every character had their fair mix of triumphs and shortcomings, and they all reflect the biases and toxic thinking that society pushes on people. They illustrate that your morality isn't what your taught but what choose to question and improve upon. It's not the prettiest look in the mirror, but it is an extremely necessary one.
The two point of view characters are Dani and Claire. I liked that we got to see the world from both points of view because they couldn't be more different. I think the opportunity to see the same situation both ways really highlights how two people can walk away from a conversation with two totally different perceptions of what happened. People pay attention to different aspects of the situation.
I connected with Dani a lot more immediately. She's an incredibly hard worker and very perceptive. She works hard to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of everyone around her. She isn't afraid to put in the time and energy for what she wants, and she treats her friendships similarly. Dani has the interesting perspective of having been born in and grown up in America but raised by her mom who is a first generation immigrant from the Philippines. She's able to look through both perspectives and gain a more honest look at America. Justice, honor, and ethics are major themes that pop up throughout the book, and while, as a debater, she believes in them greatly, she also understands how selective America's application of those words is. It's made her realistic, but she manages to never let it make her cynical. I really admired how fiercely she was willing to fight for what was right and how she always took the time to arm herself with the facts to make her arguments airtight. Her strength and resilience always shines through.
Claire originally seems like Dani's polar opposite, and her arch definitely had the most room for growth. I loved that, by the end of the book, it became clear that they were far more similar than different. Claire has never known what it's like to want or work which makes it extremely hard for her to connect with Dani. But Claire's experience isn't unique at American Prep. They have a system set up to take in rich kids from China and pair them with housing to allow them to get American educations and live independently in LA. The school has used this program to elevate its status and rake in a considerable amount of money. They call them "parachutes". While Claire finds friends that are a lot like hers, she also comes to question why the school is so divided between the locals and the parachutes, and she begins to champion a more inclusive version of the school. She's torn between many worlds, expectations, and prescribed paths, and it often gets overwhelming. Though Claire isn't thrilled about being in America, she uses the opportunity to finally define her life by her own principles and needs. She starts swimming again, campaigns to get into a better English, and starts to get to know the kids outside of her little approved bubble. As her world expands, though, the pressures from home gets louder, and Claire struggles with how much she wants to listen. Throughout the book, she truly finds her own voice and even becomes inspiring to others.
(Spoilers ahead)
Plot: 5 The book is long, but Yang makes use of every single page. The plot is both dynamic and organic. We get to build an understanding of the complex systems and social dynamics (which are fascinating on their own) before we get into the real meat of the plot. The book is continually eye opening throughout as Yang delves into class, perceptions, race, systems of oppression, and more.
The main plot line that comes out details Claire and Dani's parallel experiences with facing sexual assault and harassment. Dani's debate coach, who always encouraged her and felt like a father figure, starts making inappropriate advances that she repeatedly rejects. As it goes beyond off comments and uncomfortable moments, Dani tries to handle it how you're always told to- going to the administration. They defend the teacher for the sake of their reputation, and Dani is ostracized by her teammates when they hear what happened to her. The school leaves her to choose between her future and love of debate or her comfort and safety. Dani refuses to stand down and also starts discovering even more corruption running through the school.
At the same time, Claire is facing a similar issue of her own after being sexually assaulted by a classmate. When she takes her story to the headmistress, she's shot down and told to just let it go. Only her English teacher takes her seriously, which is heartbreaking but not far from reality. She decides to go before the ad board at the school, but justice doesn't exist in a system where money and prestige are the only meaningful currencies. Claire is treated horribly because her family has less money and power.
Cumulatively, their stories represent the collective failing of the education system to hear students and of society to take life changing allegations seriously. Their classmates either refuse to believe them or wonder why they didn't keep their mouth shut. As both girls get interrogated by the authority figures, their classmates, and those around them, Yang makes the reader understand why so many people never come forward with their stories or don't till much later in life. They take on an extreme burden for little in return, and people make efforts to suppress their voices at every turn. While both girls are extremely brave and courageous, the book is unfortunately realistic. It was empowering to see how hard they were willing to fight for both justice and to protect others.
Society expects far more from the survivor- the victim of the crime- than they ever do from the perpetrator. They expect girls to learn how to fight, to always have a way to defend themselves, to skip opportunities to protect themselves instead of going after systemic issues and punishing the criminals. If anything, I hope this book makes you realize just how bleak the reality of how we handle sexual assault is and how much damage it causes. And when someone comes forward with an accusation you'll meet it with empathy instead of the what if game.

Writing: 5 This book is incredible. Yang delivers a fully immersive world. In the author's note she delves into the amount of research that contributed to the book, and you can feel it seamlessly blend in here. Her style is immediately engaging, and Dani and Claire both have distinct voices. She makes it easy to live in their heads. Yang's pension for realism with plot points and focus on nuance makes it a truly special reading experience. It was fascinating to read about this group of kids navigating an augmented adult world without the tools they needed. The situation the program leaves them in forces the parachutes to become adults without understanding that they really are still kids. Yang explores this in a fascinating way. She also calls attention to a ton of important topics. If you've experienced it, you'll feel seen and a sense of healing from her portrayals, and if you haven't, she provides and excellent window into the reality. This book feels like it has the potential to truly make a difference.

Favorite Quote: "Girl, justice is something Americans invented to sell movies."

Links of Interest:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

My Most Anticipated of 2021/2021 ARC TBR

  A few days ago, I put out a list of my favorite books of the year that I couldn't stop talking about all year long. Now I'm here to introduce you to a brand new slate of books that I'm predicting will make my favorites list next year. These are the books I can't wait to get my hands on because they sound absolutely amazing! I've decided to separate the list into an ARC TBR so far for 2021 of ARCs I have and then to make a wishlist section below that with ARCs I hope to get or books that I'll splurge to buy. I'll include preorder links to the books that are already up for preorder so that you can easily grab a couple surprise gifts to show up throughout the year if any of these books look exciting! These will be affiliate bookshop links which means shopping the links support the blog at no cost to you. Also, if you're looking for even more 2021 books, Rachel and Vicky made the most amazing database/spreadsheet/blog to collect all the 2021 debuts togethe

evermore book tag!

As you probably know, I absolutely adore Taylor Swift, and I recently did a folklore book tag, so I figured I should make a version of evermore as well! If you want to read that post, you can find it here . And if you want all my thoughts on folklore, you can watch my original folklore reaction on my YouTube channel here.   I'm so happy to have found an evermore book tag I loved created by  Star Is All Booked Up ! That post is linked (I really enjoyed it!), and those are the prompts I'm using here.  In this tag, I just talked about books for the prompts and didn't get into the songs. If you want more of my evermore thoughts specifically, check out my blog post of favorite lyrics here and my new reaction to evermore here . You can also scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the video as well. If you want to know more about any of the books I mention, all of their titles are linked to my review.  I hope you love the post, and let me know your favorite evermore songs in the

The Best, The Brightest, The Totally Biased List of my Favorite Books of 2020

 Welcome to my big list of 2020 favorites! Usually, I do this award show style and give out different awards in a variety of categories I made up. This year is a little different because it's 2020, and I'm out of brain power to think of categories. These books appear in no particular order, and I selected them purely based on which books are still in my head months after I read them. I didn't read nearly as many books this year as usual, but I think I managed to read more books that I fell head over heels for than ever. Publishing a book this year is a major accomplishment in itself, so these authors all deserve extra rounds of applause for launching their books into an uncertain world, and even if a book from this year doesn't make a list, it's still incredible for existing. Even though I've already talked everyone's ears off about these books all year long, I'm going to do it one more time because they got me through both a hard and hectic year and pro

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: YA Book Review

  Happily Ever Afters  by Elise Bryant  Overview: Tessa gets the writing opportunity of her dreams, but her words run out at the same time. While she can't wait to take a novel writing class at her new school, the idea of sharing her work with anyone but her best friend, Caroline, makes her unable to keep writing, even for herself. Caroline devises a plan to get her to fall in love so that she can jumpstart her creative juices for the romances Tessa writes herself into. Real life inspiration is clearly not the answer, and Tessa is left even further from the answer to all of her problems. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 While I knew this book was going to have a kind of forced dating situation as Tessa tried to get this boy to fall for her, I didn't predict the love triangle till I started reading. I'm not going to fault Bryant for using a love triangle because everyone does it, but I do have to note that these characters fall into the unfortunate side effect of most love triangles

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala: YA Book Review

  Be Dazzled  by Ryan La Sala  Overview: Raffy is one of the most talented cosplayers in Boston. He knows how to sew, bedazzle, conceptualize, and execute intricate costumes that allow him to embody his favorite characters at conventions. Despite having an artistic mother, she looks down on his pursuits as childish and a waste of time. Raffy is driven and determined despite the lack of support, and his focus doesn't wane until Luca stumbles into his life. Buff and a soccer player, Luca looks like the last person Raffy wants to befriend, but Luca is drawn into Raffy's cosplaying world despite having to hide the hobby (and Raffy himself) from his parents. Unfolding on duel timelines, we follow Raffy and Luca's journey falling in and out of love and maybe back in over the course of one of Boston's biggest comic cons. Overall: 4  Characters: 5 I identified with Raffy deeply. He's anxious and determined and lonely but also scared of letting others in. Raffy is secure in

Positions Book Tag

Today, I'm sharing a new book tag created by Cielo over at Bellerose Reads who tagged me in her new Positions book tag. I love working on book tags inspired by pop music, so I was thrilled to get the tag. If I'm being totally honest, I wasn't super into Positions, Ariana Grande's latest album. I'm much more of a Thank U Next fan because that album was far more lyrically focused. Positions reminds me a lot of Sweetener. I do like "POV", the closing track of the album. Still, I'm super excited to share the tag because these are some of the best tag questions I've ever seen. Cielo did a wonderful job coming up with really cool prompts. I had a blast thinking of books that fit them. As always, just click the book title to read my review of any of the books I mentioned. And don't forget to read the original tag here .    shut up – a book you couldn’t shut up about  There are way too many. Honestly, a ton of them are already sprinkled through this po

This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry: YA Book Review

  This Will Be Funny Someday  by Katie Henry Overview: Izzy is sick of being 16. She's sick of being the "easy kid" who never causes a problem for the family or demands attention. Her mom is always busy working at her law firm, and her dad just isn't super invested. School is awful, and her controlling boyfriend makes her question what it means to be in love. And then she stumbles into a bar on comedy night, and suddenly, she finds a world so different from her own- one that's better. Though it requires maintaining more than a few lies, this new life with her college friends is too good to give up. That is, until it all comes crashing down. About growing up, being your authentic self, and navigating intense relationships for the first time, this book is incredibly relatable and quite unique in the way it approaches common YA questions. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 I relate to Izzy on a deep, deep level. From the second I read the synopsis, I knew the book was going to

Wrapping Up 2020: How'd My Reading/Blogging Go This Year

 It feels weird writing a year end post, which is probably why we're almost a week into the new year and I still haven't posted one yet. 2020 was such a hard year for the world and a weird one for me personally, and it still feels far from over. From a reading perspective, there were parts of the year that were super strong and others where I hardly picked up a book. I started the year working at a bookstore which, contrary to popular belief, made me read less than usual. I had a good run during lockdown and through the summer (though that certainly had ups and downs too), and then I started my first semester of college. That created a serious reading slump, though it wasn't like I stopped reading! In one class alone, I had 1,000 pages of reading saved in my class notebook. All the academic reading replaced my fun books, and there were moments where I honestly thought I hated reading. I wondered what was wrong with me and if I was just done with that part of my life. Over b