Reviews for Along the River

Booklist Reviews 2010 December #1
In this Chinese Cinderella novel, CC's odd conversations and references while recovering from an injury prompt Grandma Wu to take her to a physician who practices hypnosis. That's the tipping point that plunges CC from mid-twentieth-century China to the days of the Northern Song dynasty, where she lives as a privileged daughter in love with a gifted young orphan painter. Hard-edged stepmother Niang works to thwart the relationship as CC defies her family and fights for romance and adventure. The painter, Ah Zhao, is based on a famous court artist in this time-travel historical fantasy that sings the praises of art and love. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Under hypnosis, a Chinese girl named CC discovers she may have lived centuries earlier during the Song Dynasty. As wealthy, privileged Mei Lan, CC remembers having a forbidden romance with Ah Zhao, a household servant who is also a brilliant artist. The set-up is promising, but the novel suffers from a clunky framework and stilted storytelling. Glos. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 August #2
The success of Mah's memoirs (Falling Leaves, 1997, for adults and Chinese Cinderella, 1999, for kids) led to her well-received novel Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society (2005) and historical overview China: Land of Dragons and Emperors (2008). Here, she tries to combine them all, blithely and unwisely stepping beyond her literary capabilities. Readers initially meet CC (the character from the previous novel) on what seems to be a mission in World War II China. Chased, she falls and enters a coma. A doctor hypnotizes her, and readers shift to the Song dynasty and CC's previous life in a star-crossed romance, observing the scene in the famous painting Along the River at the Qing Ming Festival. Both setting and emotional tension rely heavily on cliché and exclamation points. The author abuses dialogue to cram in historical details (a visitor exclaiming "Good tea!" is treated to an encyclopedic definiton of white tea). It is unclear what story she is trying to tell: the romance? the story of the painting? the bookend of CC's coma, which will be inexplicable to readers unfamiliar with the previous novel? As none succeed, the question may go unanswered. (Fiction. 9-12)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Mah (Chinese Cinderella) connects two eras of Chinese history in this emotionally charged tale of two young women, originally published in Australia. Fearful that she's being pursued, 12-year-old CC escapes to a rooftop and falls, landing in a coma. When she awakens in a hospital, it is as though her mind has been transported back 800 years. Under hypnosis, she recalls vibrant details of another life as Mei Lan, the privileged daughter of a kindly father and cruel stepmother. Mei Lan's only friends are her ambitious older brother, Gege, and Ah Zhao, a servant boy whose artistic talent has won the notice of the emperor. Mei Lan and Ah Zhao become confidantes and fall in love, but fate tears them apart. Based on the Chinese painting Along the River at Qing Ming, this painstakingly researched novel brings to life the sights and sounds of ancient China, providing a clear interpretation of the era's rigid social structures. Characters often speak with a formality that may feel overly stiff, but vivid imagery enlivens the gripping premise; readers will be captivated by the exploration into a possible past life. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 November

Gr 5-8--During World War II, 12-year-old CC is helping her grandmother rescue downed American pilots from behind enemy lines when she falls and ends up in a monthlong coma. Hypnotherapy provides a superfluous frame for the main story. She learns that in 1091, she is 13-year-old Mei Lan, who, along with her older brother, forms a close friendship with Ah Zhao, an orphaned slave possessing considerable artistic talent. As they grow up, the three friends explore the truth behind beauty and art, the prisons formed by societal expectations, and the lasting memories of one perfect day. In the story of their friendship, Mah provides a possible explanation for the provenance of several Song Dynasty paintings, reproductions of which appear in a full-color insert. Throughout the book, the story and characters are often lost in excessive historical detail and background. Further, explanations of culture and language are frequently and clumsily inserted into the dialogue. Despite this attention to historical detail, the characters are extremely modern, creating a confusing disconnect.--Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD

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