Jean Kwok has talent - a nice voice, a sense of humor, and a knack for creating sympathetic characters. This immigrant coming-of-age story has much to recommend it. Some of the ways in which Ms. Kwok plays with words, particularly in the beginning of the book, are quite lovely. Her ability to draw the reader into the world of someone struggling with culture and lanague is impressive.It's a quick and engaging read, with a plucky and courageous female point of view character. However, it suffers from a few problems. First, Kim, the POV character, is SO brilliant and resourceful that by mid-point in the book she begins to lack credibility. The plot is predictable, while at the same time somewhat implausible. The conditions under which Kim and her mother live (in excruciating poverty, with no heat, no hot water, in a rat and cockroach infested apartment), while possibly realistic, lead this reader to conclude there would be far more consequences. My own experiences with poverty (although not nearly so extreme) have been filled with illness, crime, despair, and exhaustion. Kim excels at school, even while working long after-school hours in the same sweatshop as her mother, to the degree that she wins scholarships to one great school after another. Then, too, some of her behavior later in the novel, seems out of character given her previously established obedience and doggedness. The love interests, while often nicely written, seem too-familiar, and the ending was too predictable, convenient and ultimately unsatisfying. In the end, I found the book a pleasant read, particularly in the early to middle sections. The last third, however, failed to maintain the book's early promise.