Review: Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

mgmadnessJust Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh

Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them.

To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.

Title: Just Like Me
Author: Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Publication date: April 5, 2016

Julia was adopted from China as a baby and she’s struggling to figure out where she fits in the world and even her within her adoptive family. When she did a school project on her family’s heritage, she wrote about her adoptive mother’s Irish roots and and her adoptive father’s Italian family — not exactly what her teacher was expecting. But Julia feels more Irish and Italian than she does Chinese and I’m not sure that’s a completely a bad thing. It means she feels connected to and accepted by the family she lives with, which can only be a good thing. Yet at the same time, it definitely wouldn’t be bad if she felt a connection to her Chinese history either. It made me sad that she didn’t want anything to do with Chinese culture, even things as basic as Chinese food (which is probably the Americanized version anyway) or Chinese fans. I also don’t know that I feel that she should be pushed too hard to embrace those things. Maybe she’ll want to know more when she’s older. Or maybe she won’t. It should be her choice, not anyone else’s.

Becca and Avery were at the same orphanage in China as Julia and all their parents are still friends, but since Julia doesn’t got to their school, she’s not as close with them as they and her parents would like. She’s fine with that, though, because Becca and Avery are very into all things Chinese (food and fans, anyway). They’re proud of coming from China. They’re also both excited to go to Camp Little Big Woods and Julia would just rather not. But it’s better than another week at Chinese culture camp. Personally, I think Chinese culture camp would be fun and interesting, but I’m not being forced to go. That makes a difference.

I feel like I wasn’t quite paying attention at the beginning of the book because there were a few things I think I missed. I didn’t go back but I assume they were touched on near the beginning of the story. Like the fact that Camp LBW is a church camp, which explains why there’s praying and Bible reading.

Camp LBW is only a week long, but there’s a lot packed into that week. There are three other girls in the same cabin as Julia, Becca, and Avery. At first I got the idea that Vanessa and Meredith were supposed to be stereotypical popular girls, but then they didn’t really turn out that way. They (especially Vanessa) were just way competitive and mean when not everyone (Julia and the third other girl, Gina, who’s also Vanessa’s cousin) can’t keep up. Becca’s competitive too, but she’s not mean, at least not deliberately. The cabin gets into some pretty bad fights, which leads to punishments and funny incidents and of course the girls all getting along. Rinse and repeat. It was predictable but no more so than any preteen camp movie, and I didn’t mind. Their counselor sure had her hands full with this group of girls, and I was glad that she didn’t just take things in stride, but instead got frustrated and upset herself.

As the week goes on, Julia gets to know Becca and Avery — and herself — better. She makes a good friend in Gina, who doesn’t get along with Vanessa and Meredith either, and she learns that she’s not the only one struggling with growing up. Even Vanessa has her insecurities and worries.

Just Like Me wasn’t quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it once I settled in. I’m not sure what I was expecting, really. I like camp books so it helps that the setting was Camp LBW.

3 1/2 stars
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Jenna