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Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous YouthTwenty-one-year-old Fenfang Wang is a little lost. She might know the general direction of where she’s headed, Beijing, but after that, nothing is certain. But she can’t go back to her little isolated village in the Chinese countryside; she’s had enough of that monotonous life of digging up sweet potatoes. And so, young Fenfang navigates her way through dusty Beijing, struggling to find a place she belongs in and some satisfaction to her life. But along the way as she barely gets by, she encounters many obstacles of the newly modern Chinese era, from restriction of the Communist regime and dreary jobs as a film extra to bad men and hopeless dreams. In this uniquely written coming-of-age tale, a young Chinese woman strives to forge her own identity amidst the hardships in the city and her own life.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth was an interesting tale and glimpse into the life of a contemporary Chinese city. I enjoyed Fenfang’s frank voice; Fenfang can be relied on to tell it like it is, from the most depressing parts to the very best. However, I felt this honesty failed to really animate any of the characters besides Fenfang, and even Fenfang’s character was sometimes a little weak. The plot never gets too exciting; this novel focuses more on the mental and emotional maturation of Fenfang. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but the plot’s boringness did make Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth a little more difficult to get through. The story read more like a memoir than a novel, and I wasn’t left with a sense of accomplishment that is generally standard in coming-of-age novels. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves the readers a little confused unless they really take the time to think about Fenfang’s story.

I don’t recommend Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth because while it had its great moments, nothing about it really drew me in. readers who enjoy short stories about identity especially in combination with foreign landscapes and cultures may also like this novel.

Rating: 3.0

Review copy from publisher Random House

7 munch(es) :

Steph Su said...

*sigh* It's such a shame that this book didn't turn out well. It's always exciting to see more Asian American writers... but only if they've written something good!

Serena said...

i just love the cover of this book!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I like the cover too. I really want to read this one still. I think it sounds interesting and I love memoirs, so maybe it won't be too bad for me. :)


Lindsay said...

It's such a shame. I was definitely attracted to the book because of its cover. Unfortunately, books with distinct cultural themes but not such great writing quality are often published.

stargirlreads said...

the cover= great.
story= not so much

Diana Dang said...

I love the cover. I was expecting something about a girl trying to adapt to the American life. That's a disappointment to hear.

Bookgeek said...

Like everyone else, I like the cover and had been trying to find the time to get to it. Now I think I'll pass. Thanks.

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