8Books Review: New From Here by Kelly Yang

Kelly Yang’s latest book New From Here is a middle grade reader about a young boy and his family during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been at this pandemic so long that there are now books reflecting on our experience — but after all, it has been two plus years of this. Yang’s book follows ten-year-old Knox. When COVID breaks out in Hong Kong, his family decides to move from there to California, where they hope they will be safer. But his dad has to stay in Hong Kong for work.

So Knox, his mom, older brother, and younger sister pack their bags on short notice and leave for California. Knox struggles to adjust to his new home (including having to share a room with his older brother), his new school (it’s hard to be the new kid and maybe he has ADHD?), and the stress of his mom losing her job (plus not having his dad around). Parts of the novel are heart-breaking, as Knox deals with all the usual 10-year-old stuff in addition to the uncertainties and anti-Asian racism of the COVID crisis. His new friend’s parents own a Chinese restaurant, which quickly sees a dip in business even before COVID cases reach the U.S. But through it, we get to see Knox and his family find ways to survive and thrive together (read the book for the sibs genius ideas for helping out aforementioned Chinese restaurant).

The book is reflective in part on the author’s family’s own experiences — coronavirus tag a “game” her children were subjected to is one of the challenges Knox and his friend face at school. New From Here thoughtfully navigates this difficult time, its uncertainty and in particular the anti-Asian racism. It’s also full of heart, showcasing growing sibling relations (the good, the bad, the ugly) and a boy and his family determined to get through a crisis together.

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About Lily

East Coast Chinese American. I like thick-skinned dumplings and hard-covered books.
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