Finally Seen

Finally Seen
Age Range
Release Date
February 28, 2023
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My sister got to grow up with my parents. Me? I grew up with postcards from my parents.

When ten-year-old Lina Gao steps off the plane in Los Angeles, it’s her first time in America and the first time seeing her parents and her little sister in five years! She’s been waiting for this moment every day while she lived with her grandmother in Beijing, getting teased by kids at school who called her “left behind girl.” Finally, her parents are ready for her to join their fabulous life in America! Except, it’s not exactly like in the postcards:

1. School’s a lot harder than she thought. When she mispronounces some words in English on the first day, she decides she simply won’t talk. Ever again.

2. Her chatty little sister has no problem with English. And seems to do everything better than Lina, including knowing exactly the way to her parents’ hearts.

3. They live in an apartment, not a house like in Mom’s letters, and they owe a lot of back rent from the pandemic. And Mom’s plan to pay it back sounds more like a hobby than a moneymaker.

As she reckons with her hurt, Lina tries to keep a lid on her feelings, both at home and at school. When her teacher starts facing challenges for her latest book selection, a book that deeply resonates with Lina, it will take all of Lina’s courage and resilience to get over her fear in order to choose a future where she’s finally seen.

Editor review

1 review
Moving to a New Country
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Lina Gao has been raised by her grandmother (Lao Lao) in China while her parents establish their life in Southern California. It's hard to leave, but she's glad to finally be together with her family, including younger sister Millie. It's even harder to know that Lao Lao is now living in a nursing home. Things are different than she expects them to be in the US: her parents are in an apartment instead of a house, they are facing financial difficulties, and her classmates are mean to her and dismissive of her abilities to speak English. Her father is working at an organic farm run by Pete, a cranky white man instead of being a microbiologist, and her mother is making bath bombs and selling them on Etsy because she doesn't have a work permit. The family is working on their immigration application, but since Pete's lawyer is handling them, they don't know what the progress is. Both Millie and Lina have open enrolled to a school in Pete's neighborhood in order to get a better education, and they are warned to stay invisible and not cause trouble so they don't get kicked out. Lina's teachers are all supportive and helpful. Ms. Carter, her main teacher, encourages her reading and has Finn, one of the nicer boys in class, help her. Ms. Ortiz, the ELL teacher, works one on one with her and reminds Lina that she herself didn't speak English when she came to the US from Guatemala. The librarian, Ms. Hollins, gives Lina a book, the made up Flea Shop by Cat Wang, about a girl whose parents run a second hand store. Graphic novels are a great way for Lina to improve her skills and enjoy reading, but the one she loves best faces challenges. The meanest girl in her class, Jessica, has a mother who is very controlling and is also active in the PTO. She also is "tired" of inclusion and diversity, and when she finds out that white children are mean to the main character in Flea Shop, she tries to have the book banned! Lina's father has problems with Pete, and Lina's mother's bath bomb business doesn't look like it will make enough money for the family to pay their back rent once the COVID era rent forgiveness ends. Will Lina be able to navigate these difficult times with the help of her family?
Good Points
Yang's experiences as an immigrant child lend a level of detail and authenticity that really resonates with readers. She also brings her personal experiences with book banning to this tale. Seeing the changes that her family had to make to remain in the US, like working on a farm instead of being a scientist, is important for readers who don't have experience with immigrating to know about.

I was sort of hoping that I could hold this cover up next to New From Here and it would continue the street scene, but it didn't. It looks so similar!

Yang has had a lot of fans ever since the Front Desk series, so her middle grade books are automatic purchases for me. I love it when books cover experiences that I don't know anything about; it would be so hard to leave a child behind, even if it made sense for the greater well being of the family. Like Weeks' and Varadarajan's Save Me a Seat, this is an excellent look at what it is like to come to a new country and adjust to a new school and way of life.
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