My name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto.
I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job.
As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school.
But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn't coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own…
“[A] beautifully written story.”—The Independent
“One of those books that you simply won’t want to put down…five out of five stars!”—The Guardian
Charismatic 11-year-old Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto finds it confusing to be of both Italian and Japanese descent, and it's "molto embarrassing" to have five names that draw attention to her differences she'd prefer to stick to Amber. What's more, her Japanese father abandoned the family years earlier, leaving Amber and her younger sister, Bella, with unresolved anger and longing. Middle school is going to be tough, so Amber creates an imaginary father to confide in and tries to lift Bella's spirits by sending her faux letters from their father, who she pretends is a secret agent ("When all my missions are over, I might be able to come back. I might not though, so don't get all excited or anything"). Crawford-White's margin doodles (stars, confetti, swirls, etc.) and a smattering of Italian and Japanese words (including chapter numbers written in English, Italian, and Japanese) further enliven Shevah's debut. Amber's effervescent and opinionated narration captivates from the start, making it easy to root for her as she strives to conquer the "beast" of her worries and thrive at home and at school. Ages 9 12.
emotions ring true for the situation, and the voice is wholly 12
Amber is ‘almost twelve’, and about to leave her primary school to begin at middle school. Of course, that’s not her only worry, because at 11 going on 12 and into a new school with scary looking bigger kids is daunting.
See, Amber and her sister Bella are different: half-Japanese, half Italian, their mother is a bit of an eclectic soul and their father, well, Amber doesn’t quite know where he is, having left when she was 6 and Bella was just one.
Amber’s voice is solid and quite appropriate for her age. She’s got questions about her father and misses the idea of a father near constantly, but the wound is reopened when she and Bella, returning home, see a father and daughter playing in the park sandbox. Now Amber has no desire to draw (her favorite pastime) and doesn’t feel that she can tell her mother just why Bella is so sad.
Clever, funny and occasionally clichéd, the story rings true and honest because life is all of those things, including a bit dark, worry filled and self-centered. Because Amber is all of those things, but her perspective isn’t wearing despite the often negative focus. She does move on and forward, continuing to do what she loves (art) while still wondering if a new phone, different clothes, being more like everyone else will make things different and better. We’ve all done that – chased an idea or thing to fit in, and Amber is no different. And, she is desperately missing the feedback and guidance from her father, so much so that she creates a “Dream Father” to answer her questions, provide guidance and comfort. What Amber never quite realizes consciously is that she is spending more effort providing solutions for herself in her dream father’s perspective: those answers are there all along.
A book that is fun to read, with insets where Amber uses and explains British-isms, humor and situations familiar to most middle schoolers to move the story forward and present her life. While the mystery of her father’s disappearance is never explained, the emotions ring true for the situation, and the voice is wholly 12, full of important and not so worries and daily emotional roller coaster rides.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.