“Chinglish” by Sue Cheung


Thanks to Penguin Random House UK Children’s for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

When I requested this book, I thought it was for older teens but I think it’s probably aimed more at the younger teen/tween audience – think Jacqueline Wilson age group. The story follows Jo, a young British Chinese girl growing up in the 1980s. As an 80s kid myself, a lot of Jo’s experiences really clicked with me and there are some real laugh out loud moments, particularly in the first part of the book. The text is interspersed with Cheung’s illustrations which are quirky and fun and really enhance the narrative.

This book reminded me a little of the Diary of Adrian Mole, it had that same kind of self-deprecating humour to it. Although there are a lot of really funny moments in the book, it also explores some seriously dark themes including domestic abuse, addiction, animal cruelty, bullying and racism. I’ve seen some criticism directed towards the author for this but she has based this book on her own experiences growing up so I don’t see how it is for us to say whether or not they should have been included. A lot of what Jo goes through might seem unbelievable to modern audiences but stuff like this was often not concerned a big whoop-de-doo in the 80s I am afraid.

Overall, it was an interesting read. I am not sure how much it will appeal to what I perceived to be its target audience, but parts of Jo’s story were a fun trip down memory lane for me. As a warts and all portrait of a working class British Chinese family in the 80s, I can’t fault it.

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