Friday, June 2, 2017

"Girl on the Verge" by Pintip Dunn

Girl on the Verge
by Pintip Dunn

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

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From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either - and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.
In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.
When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first - her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how it much intersects with her own - and just how far Shelly will go to belong ...

A fish swims beneath the open staircase in my Khun Yai’s house. A real live fish, with its translucent fins fluttering in the water, its belly gold-scaled and bloated from regular feedings. If I part my knees, I can catch long glimpses of its lazy swimming through the gap in the stairs.
Of course, I’m not supposed to part my knees. It’s not ladylike for a twelve-year-old girl, not here, not in Thailand. The land where my parents grew up; the place that’s supposed to be my home, too. That’s what the banner said, when my relatives came to pick us up at the airport. “Welcome home, Kanchana.”
Never mind that I only come to Thailand every couple years. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone else here, with my American build and my frizzy, out-of-control hair. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone in my hometown, either, since I’m the only Asian girl in school. Never mind that the only reason we’re here now is because my father’s dead and my mom can’t keep it together.
For a moment, pain lances through me, so sharp and severe that it might as well slice my heart in half, like in one of those video games my friends like to play. I squeeze my eyes shut, but that doesn’t keep the tears from spilling out. Neither do the glasses sliding down my nose. And so the tears drip down, down, down, past my unladylike knees, through the gap in the stairs, into the fish basin below.
The drops scare the fish, who swims away with its tail swishing in the water, no longer languid, no longer lazy. So, even this creature wants to get away from me—from my grief, from my strangeness—as quickly as possible.
“There you are, luk lak,” Khun Yai says in Thai, coming down the stairs. She is my mother’s mother, and since we arrived, she’s used the endearment—child that I love—more often than my name.
“You’re up early.” She pats her forehead with a handkerchief. It’s only seven a.m., and already sweat drenches my skin like I’ve taken a dip in the basin. No wonder they take two or three showers a day here.
“Couldn’t sleep. Jet lag.”
“I’ve been up for a couple hours myself.” She eases onto the step next to me, her knees pressed together, her legs folded demurely to one side.
Immediately, I try to rearrange my body to look like hers and then give up. My legs just don’t go that way.
“What do you want to do today?” Khun Yai asks. “More shopping?”
“Um, no thanks.” I make a face. “Didn’t you hear those salesgirls at Siam Square yesterday? They rushed up as soon as we entered and said they didn’t have anything in my size.” My cheeks still burn when I think about their haughty expressions.
She sighs. “The clothes there are just ridiculously small. We’ll go to the mall today. They should have something that will fit you.”
I stare at her diminutive frame and her chopstick legs. “One of the salesgirls asked how much I weighed. Another grabbed my arm and said I felt like a side pillow.”
“They didn’t mean any harm. It is just the Thai way to be blunt.” She catches my chin and tilts up my face. “You are so beautiful. I wish you could see that.”
I could say so many things. I could tell her that I’m ugly not only in Thailand but also in the United States. Even though I’m not big by American standards—far from it—I could confess how the boys call me Squinty. How those Thai salesgirls snickered at my poodle-fuzz hair. I could explain how I’m from two
worlds but fit in neither.
But I don’t. Because my words will only make her sad, and there have been enough tears in our family.
She stands and holds out her hand. “Come. I want to show you something.”
I rise dutifully and take her hand because that’s what good Thai girls do. They act as they’re told and don’t ask questions. They show respect by bending down when they walk past an adult, and they never, ever touch the head of an elder.
I may not look like the typical Thai girl, but darn it, I’m going to try my best to be one.
We walk through the house, across the shiny marble floors and past the intricate teakwood cabinets, and enter Khun Yai’s private wing. She shuts the door and switches on the air conditioner. The stream of cold cuts through the heavy air, and I feel like I can breathe again.
She crouches in front of a safe, spins the dial, and takes out a jewelry pouch. It is made of bloodred velvet and decorated with gold lettering.
I bite my lip. “What is it?”
“A family heirloom. Open it.”
With trembling in my fingers that I don’t understand, I loosen the drawstring of the pouch and pour the contents into my hand.
It is a necklace. But that might be the understatement of the year. If what I’m holding is just a necklace, then the plane ride to Thailand is just a hop. The stinky durian is just a fruit. My yearning to shove my awkward, bumbling self into a graceful and confident skin is just a feeling.
Sapphires and rubies are set in a delicate gold filigree, alternating blue and red along a raised spiral. The intricate pattern is distinctive, yet unfamiliar, and the gems flash like fire.
My chest aches. I’ve never seen anything like it. Most of the time, beauty is in the familiar. A song that’s been listened to a thousand times. A face that matches your society’s standards of perfection.
But sometimes, you see an object and you feel it in your heart. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve just seen it for the first time or the hundredth.
“Would you like to try it on?” Khun Yai asks.
I whip my eyes up to meet hers. “Can . . . can I? I don’t want to break it.”
“Nonsense. Necklaces are meant to be worn.” She guides me to a rectangular mirror on top of a dressing table.
I don’t normally like to look at myself. I can’t stand to see my thick, unruly hair. The lenses of my glasses are always smudged, no matter how many times I clean them against my shirt.
But right now, the only thing I’m focused on is my neck, long, thin—and bare.
“This necklace has belonged in our family for six generations,” she says, bending the malleable hook at the end of the chain. “My own grandmother gave it to me, with the stipulation that it be passed to my eldest granddaughter.”
My mouth dries. My mother—or as I call her, Mae—has an older brother, but he never had children. And her two younger siblings all had kids after her.
“You mean to say . . .” I trail off, unable to speak such a presumptuous wish out loud.
“Yes, luk lak,” she says gently. “This heirloom will belong to you someday.”
She drapes the necklace around my neck. The gold settles against my collarbone. The color makes my skin gleam, so that it no longer seems yellow and wan, but radiant and warm. The sapphires and rubies contrast with my black hair and eyes, and I know in an instant that these are the hues I should be sporting—should’ve always been sporting. I think of Khun Yai wearing this necklace before me, and her grandmother, who wore it before her. And I’m no longer floating around between worlds, lost. Unanchored. This piece of jewelry connects me to all the women in my family’s history.
“Lovely,” Khun Yai pronounces.
For a fleeting, infinitesimal moment, I feel something I’ve never felt before. Certainly not at the school dances, where the boys’ eyes skim right over me. And certainly not here, in Thailand, where they look at my average build like I’m a linebacker.
For once in my life, I look in the mirror and I feel beautiful.

Praise for the Book
"Heartbreaking and heroic. You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough!" ~ Romily Bernard, author of the Find Me trilogy
"A twisty, fast-paced thriller that kept me guessing to the end." ~ Shannon Grogan, author of From Where I Watch You
"This one will tug your heart and leave you breathless!" ~ Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later
"A headlong rush into the shadows of secrets that should not be kept." ~ Michelle Zink, author of Prophecy of the Sisters
"Dunn keeps the suspense level high and the risk factor great through taut plotlines and compelling characters. The narrative takes the important issue of diversity and effortlessly folds it into a suspenseful tale about betrayal, loneliness, abuse, and the extreme lengths one person will go to fit in. The book manages to forge a solid path in a crowded forest of thrillers while tackling the issue of bigotry with intelligence and empathy. A thrilling tale with a lot of heart." ~ Kirkus Reviews

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
When she is 12 years old, Kanchana's father dies and her grandmother moves from Thailand to look after her while her mother works. Being Thai, Kanchana has never really felt like she fit in at school. Struggling with self-confidence, her one solace is her passion for fashion design, which she has to keep hidden from her family, who want her to be a doctor. Things become even more complicated when her mother brings home an orphaned teenager to live with them. Shelly seems to have a sinister side and, as she slowly tries to take over Kan's life, tensions mount and a long-hidden family secret threatens to be revealed.
The story is told in the first person/present tense from Kan's point-of-view, interspersed with chapters in the third person/past tense from Shelly's point-of-view. Using this technique, the author is able to inject a creepiness factor into the story as well as build the suspense. While I knew what was coming from very early on, I was still interested in Kan's journey of discovery. Part mystery, part thriller, part romance, this book is mostly about family, fitting in, and belonging. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses into the Thai lifestyle and traditions, especially the descriptions of the food.
Warnings: sexual references, violence.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"I’m from two worlds but fit in neither."
"For once in my life, I look in the mirror and I feel beautiful."
"I feel like the girl who will never, ever belong."
"I’d rather have one real friendship than ten shallow ones."
"Don’t let someone else determine how you feel about yourself."
"Being with Ethan is showing me that difference is not necessarily a bad thing."
"Nothing can ever replace a mother’s love."

About the Author
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, Forget Tomorrow, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include The Darkest Lie, Remember Yesterday, and the novella Before Tomorrow (FREE).
She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Plus, everyone can download a FREE copy of Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn.

Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn