Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Out of the Dragon's Mouth by Joyce Burns Zeiss

Out of The Dragon's Mouth

By Joyce Burns Zeiss

Blurb: An authentic portrayal of life in a refugee camp

After the fall of South Vietnam, fourteen-year-old Mai, a young Vietnamese girl of Chinese descent, is torn from a life of privilege and protection and forced to flee in the hold of a fishing trawler across the South China Sea. Mai finds tenuous safety in a refugee camp on an island off the coast of Malaysia, where she is taken in by Small Auntie, a greedy relative who demands payment for her hospitality. With her father's words, "You must survive," echoing in her ears, Mai endures the hardships of the camp, tempered only by dreams of being sponsored by her uncle in Philadelphia for entry into America.

When an accident forces Mai to flee from the safety of her temporary family, she meets a half-American boy named Kien who might be the only person who can keep her alive until she's sent to the US.


Genres: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Publication Date: March 8, 2015

Pages: 264

Series: N/A 

My Rating: 2 stars

Out of the Dragon's Mouth is pitched as a realistic portrayal of a Vietnamese refugee. For that reason, I was a bit surprised that so much of the story focuses on paranormal activity. That was when I officially realized this story and I would probably not get along.

I LOVE Historical Fiction; the ones that can make history seem exciting but do it in a way that still it realistic to the time period. This book does neither of those things. It is boring. And the ghost took up the whole story. Seriously. This did not bring this time period to life for me at all; what it did bring to life was a dead man who was mad at Hiep and Mai for no real good reason that I could think of.

The book NEVER gave as a good reason as to why the ghost hated Hiep and Mai so much. The halfhearted reason Mai gave didn't even much sense, and even she admits that.

The other parts of the plot, as I said before, were just dull. They made up for such a fraction of the actual story and it about as good as bringing history to life as the Wikipedia page for Vietnamese immigration camps.

The dialogue was overly simple. It was like I was reading a early readers chapter book. The narration was only slightly better; I don't know why the book made it so juvenile, because it made for lackluster reading; the emotions of Mai and others did not come across well.

The other characters? Very two dimensional. I learned very little about them. Apparently they were Mai's dear friends, but it was never really stated why she liked them so much, and I couldn't ever figure it out because I knew so little about them.

Instead of emotions being described, the book just told the reader what the characters felt. 'She was upset', 'he was happy,'...things like that. I want to know their exact emotions, not just a sentence telling me a basic feeling.

I wish I could recommend this, but I can't. The story that this book tries to tell is so important; it just doesn't do a great job of telling it.


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