I am not really sure what to classify this as but am listing it as a thriller. Oh my goodness, I went into this knowing nothing and absolutely loved it. It’s part thriller, part satire… equal parts enjoyable and uncomfortable. June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be successful authors. They came up together, top of their class at Yale. Except… June’s writing career has stalled and Athena is at the top of her game; a best-selling author with Netflix deals coming her way. When Athena dies in a freak accident (in front of June!), June does the unthinkable: she steals Athena’s manuscript, spends several weeks editing it, sends it to her editor, and passes it off as her own. But also: she rebrands herself from June Hayward to a more racially ambiguous Juniper Song. The book itself is a masterpiece, about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War 1. Of course, it is a huge success and Juniper Song becomes famous nearly overnight. But June can’t seem to get out from under Athena’s shadow, even though she’s dead. June makes for an unreliable (and deeply unlikeable) narrator, though you do feel badly for her at times. It’s compulsively readable (you will not want to stop!) and fun, while also tackling themes of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation within the publishing industry.
Author: R. F. Kuang