The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong
By L. Tam Holland
Published 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
It starts with a history assignment. Vee is supposed to make a family tree for his history class. The problem: Vee knows nothing about his family. Well, he knows his dad is Chinese and came to America alone. He knows his mom is from Texas and was married before. But he doesn't have any aunts or uncles or cousins and he's never met his grandparents. So, how will Vee do the assignment?
I requested an e-galley of this, looking forward to reading a contemporary multicultural family story. Every once in a while, I need a break from all the fantasy and dark dystopia that I normally read. I was definitely looking forward to this when I started it. Unfortunately, I've ended up disappointed.
I really wanted to like this book. I liked that it featured a biracial main character and his desire to know more about where he comes from. I vividly remember doing a family tree assignment as a kid and, over the years, I've pursued a casual interest in genealogy. I'm a big believer in actively knowing where you come from and what that means to you as an individual. So, I completely understood Vee's overwhelming desire to discover the truth about his extended family.
However - I didn't really like Vee. And that made it very difficult for me to like this novel. I think Vee's voice and character are relatively authentic; I just didn't like him. I felt about him a bit like I feel about Greg Heffley - he's not really the nicest person you've ever encountered. While I think a lot of what Vee does will be easy for teens to understand and relate to (his frustrations with the basketball team, his goading of teachers he thinks he's smarter than), these are the things that made me not like him.
Because of my dislike of Vee, I found a lot of the plot absurd and annoying. Though I can understand Vee's desire to learn more about his background, I felt he was being pretty selfish and unsympathetic in his quest. Sometimes, there are things in our past that are hard to talk about - Vee doesn't seem to have any awareness of this, to the point where he is uncomfortably pushing the issue with his parents.
Additionally, I felt that most of the other characters, particularly the girls, existed solely for Vee to use and manipulate as he saw fit. I really disliked the insensitivity Vee displayed in his varied relationships with girls and women.
Overall, this book and this character gave me a lot of negative feelings, making it impossible for me to enjoy this one.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.