Delicately penned details leading to a joyful, gleeful exploration of the Far East culture lay the foundation for a story that’s lush with life lessons presented in an engaging, light-hearted manner. Themes ranging from accountability to tolerance to maturity are brought to life in Pingzi. When she finds herself disobeying explicit instructions, even though she had the best of intentions, Pingzi is quick to admit fault, explain her actions, and accept the consequences. Her chosen-family relationship with Benzel is gently showcased, directly contrasting the lack of relationship she has with her mother and sisters, thanks to assigned gender roles and outdated cultural mores.
Pingzi’s occasional lapses into wise-beyond-her-years maturity may feel disingenuous to some readers. However, that’s far outweighed by the moments of gentle adult humor (particularly in the sweet exasperation of Benzel) and the book’s innocent, sensitive approach to growing up in difficult times. Readers will find themselves utterly captivated by the vividly drawn characters and lush setting.
Takeaway: Captivating mystery of dragons, demons, and Young Adult life lessons.
Comparable Titles: Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe, Cindy Lin’s The Twelve.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A