America is PERFECT! I love it here. I wish you could come visit -- we could go shopping on Market Street and you could meet all my new friends. . . .
Okay, so Vicenza isn't being totally honest with Peaches, her best friend back in Manila. But what fun is it being the new girl at snooty Grosvernor High? Or rooting through the Salvation Army for unholey cashmere sweaters? Or having culture-shocked, embarrassingly clueless parents? Maybe being Claude Caligari's ignored geometry partner is sort of fun, but Vicenza would rather be his girlfriend . . . or at least his date to the annual fancy-schmancy Soirée d'Hiver.
But Vicenza won't be friendless, fashionless, or "fresh off the boat" for long -- it's only a matter of time before she sees what's right before her eyes and her luck begins to change.
After growing up wealthy in the Philippines, 14-year-old Vicenza (called V) is having a hard time adjusting to a much poorer life in the United States. She has no friends at the private girls' school where she's on academic scholarship, she has to work at a cafeteria her mother runs for Sears employees, and she shops for clothes at the Salvation Army. But in e-mails to her best friend back in the Philippines, V doesn't mention that she gets called "FOB!" (fresh off the boat) while walking through downtown San Francisco, instead creating a fantasy life in which she's popular, rich and in a relationship with her cute crush, Claude Caligari. Beyond V's family, the characters come off as scripted (the popular girls are snooty, and Isobel, a French girl and V's first friend, is fun but rather wacky), and the end wraps a little too neatly. But teens can identify with V's longing for acceptance and de la Cruz's (The Au Pairs) details about Filipino food and culture, as well as what V's family experiences as immigrants, add flavor and authenticity to the novel. Additionally, readers will be touched by memorable scenes between V and her mother who, V finally realizes, is "having as much, if not more trouble, adjusting to life in America." In the end, the colorful details and the mother-daughter relationship make up for some familiar plotting. Ages 12-up.