The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman. Source: Library. Format: Hardcover, 321 pages, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc., 2013.
This book frustrated me so much. Because the Goodreads synopsis sums things up well, here’s the first paragraph about this historical fiction novel: “Jade Moon is a Fire Horse–the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.” Jade Moon was hellishly stubborn and willful, as well as rash and impulsive, and I honestly couldn’t ever bring myself to like her as a heroine. No one trusted her because she never did anything to gain their trust. She would always kvetch about how unfairly people treated her when there was a legitimate reason for that: she was rude and aggressive and never really tried to change her ways.
Now here’s the second paragraph from the synopsis: “Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West”, she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path… one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.”
Sterling Promise was an ass. A lying, scheming, uncaring ass who I couldn’t believe Jade Moon fell for. Nothing about him was appealing and I thought Jade Moon would be smarter about him. Alas, she was not. Jade Moon’s father was also an ass, though to a different degree. The entire section of the book where our characters were detained at Angel Island was pretty lackluster and went on far too long. It’s also pretty obvious that Jade Moon does get admitted into America, but her adventures in San Francisco were tiresome. She basically got caught up in the Chinese equivalent of the Mafia. She met another Chinese immigrant, Harry, who was kinda of a wimp but who I did like overall (except when he acted like a wimp). The best part, though, were the scenes that included Neil, an Irishman and bodyguard of Jade Moon’s Chinese Mafia “boss”. He took no crap and the two struck up an unlikely friendship.
But the whole book… It was disappointing. And so frustrating, like I mentioned at the beginning of this review. It packed in a lot of historical information without seeming like an educational tool, but there was nothing, factual or fictional, that jumped out at me and stuck in my head. (I already know a lot about this historical period, so I felt like I didn’t learn any new, interesting things.) I only really remember the parts that had me fed up. The pacing was off and the characters were unsympathetic. I didn’t absolutely hate this book, but I just didn’t care for the story or the characters.