Being Frances Chin (11) is a pretty lonely life. She was born in Detroit, but she feels like a foreigner. Being among the few Chinese children in her school, she and her older sister Clara (13) are the target of bullies. At home, her parents spend all their energy on running their restaurant and coming up with ways for Clara's hair to grow. To cover her unexplained bald spot, her parents bought Clara a wig, which quickly disappeared at school.
When Frances is with her best friend Annie, life is better. They ride bikes, they play tennis, and best of all, they laugh! Annie tells Frances she should join the tennis team. Frances is flattered, but her parents are not supportive. When a local tennis coach spots Frances and invites her to join the team, she hopes that will change.
Annie and Frances also decide to be detectives! They come up with a plan not just to find and recover Clara's wig, but to find out why she has a bald spot in the first place.
Be patient with Frances! Having read the summary on the back, I was a little disappointed that the story wasn't "matching" the description. It took about 40 pages for Frances' narration to create a picture of how she sees the world. She shares her emotions in ways that are palpable: loneliness, sadness, worry, joy, and happiness. I also appreciated Frances' perspectives on Chinese culture and family dynamics. On one hand, Frances understood her parents' goals for her and her sister, but on the other, she seemed frustrated that they didn't appreciate her "American life."
I was surprised to see that Love, Love is listed as being for ages 8 to 12. My recommendation would be ages 10 to 13. Given the more abstract free verse storytelling, I'm not sure younger, elementary-aged children can follow the parallel plots. I also think they could be confused or scared by Clara's illness.
Descriptive language and beautiful imagery complement a story about family, relationships, friendship, and being yourself. Frances helps readers feel for themselves what it is like to be an outsider.
The publisher lists the book audience as "8 to 12." We wouldn't recommend it for children younger than 10, as younger children may not understand the mental illness.
This is a first-person story that is part biography, part mystery, and part growing up.
Thanks to Frances, the story creates lots of opportunities for discussion and building empathy. In addition to exploring cultural tradition, bullying, friendship, readers have the opportunity to think about - and discuss - how it would feel to live life as an outsider and cope with a sibling's illness.
The Author's Note, explains that Love, Love incorporates memories of her own childhood, including her real sister's illness. The author includes a description of trichotillomania and resources where you can get more information. Because this is not a well-known disease, it may be an opportunity research the topic and learn more together.
10 and Up
10 and Up
Borrow. This is a verse novel, and some readers find that they take longer to get into or are harder to follow.