The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong

(i)

 

Angsty tale of Chinese-American teen questioning his roots.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Vee's interest in history gives some information about Peking Man, one of the earliest Homo erectus fossils discovered. More significantly, Vee brings up philosophical questions about history, such as the difficulty of uncovering real historical truth and the fact that, as Vee puts it, "within every history there is a multiplicity of stories."

Positive messages

People can't be fit into neat little boxes, not even parents. Through his experiences and soul-searching, Vee learns that the one-dimensional, dismissive designations he's been giving people in high school don't really apply once he gets to know them. Even his parents have their reasons for withholding information about their family's history, and Vee finally begins to understand why.

Positive role models

Vee tells a lie to his parents -- a big one -- and he considers himself a failure for this and other reasons. Nevertheless, he constantly questions his own morals and analyzes his motives and those of the people around him, showing the reader, if not himself, that his heart's in the right place. However, his constant complaining and self-pity becomes tedious. His friend Madison is smart and confident, and Vee admires her.

Violence

Vee gets into a fight with another boy at school, but this is atypical for him. He's punished for his actions, but he realizes that standing up to the boy who was teasing him does succeed in making the boy leave him alone.

Sex

Vee describes himself masturbating. Later, a popular girl he has long fantasized about invites him to fool around with her in a bedroom at a party. There is some under-the-clothing action, but Vee decides not to take advantage of his opportunity with her because the girl's drunk.

Language

"Ass" is used frequently, and "s--t" and "f--k" are also used. Vee calls some athletic girls "lesbos" and refers to another boy as a "racist prick." The coach calls the team "pussies." Vee discusses racial slurs against people of Chinese heritage, such as "Nuprin" and "Twinkie."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Vee goes to a party where other teens are drinking. He drinks beer and a shot of some sort of hard alcohol and gets slightly drunk. The girl he likes gets very drunk and offers to "mess around" with Vee.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong is an honest portrayal of a Chinese-American teen boy questioning his roots. Although Vee lies several times to his parents, he feels guilt over his misdeeds. Vee has a cynical, judgmental point of view but also a good sense of humor, and he tries very hard to overcome his shortcomings. Like many teen boys, he thinks about sex quite a bit, and at one point describes himself masturbating; at another he engages in petting with a girl at a party. There's some teen drinking, strong language ("Ass," "s--t," "f--k"), name-calling ("lesbos," "racist prick") and racial slurs ("Nuprin,"  "Twinkie"). When Vee finds out a popular girl at school has sought refuge at their history teacher's house, he wonders if the teacher has behaved inappropriately with her but ultimately decides it was innocent.

Parents say

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What's the story?

High school sophomore Vee wants to know more about his half-Chinese, half-Texan family roots, but neither of his parents are forthcoming on the subject in THE COUNTERFEIT FAMILY TREE OF VEE CRAWFORD-WONG. When he's assigned to write a family history in school, he decides to make one up, as the title suggests. This starts him on a downward spiral that will seem tame to many, but Vee is filled with angst as one lie follows another in his attempts to find out more about his family, get together with the popular senior girl he has a crush on, find out the truth about his history teacher's relationship with that girl, and maintain his friendship with Madison, the Chinese-American girl who is as smart as Vee thinks he should be. When he finally tells the biggest lie of all, he's taken on a journey that may finally allow him to discover who he is -- and may force him to tell the truth.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong accurately captures the angst, anger, and confusion of adolescence, and Vee has an authentic voice that many teens will relate to. However, his constant complaining about his lack of knowledge of his multicultural family background starts to sound whiny and overly tortured, especially through the first half of the book, when not a lot happens. His criticisms of his fellow students and teachers also begins to grate, even though he cushions many of his negative observations in self-deprecating humor. Once Vee decides to take action to solve his problems, the pace picks up and the resolution is ultimately satisfying.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about multicultural teen literature. Have you noticed the lack of it in comparison to books about white kids? Does this seem like a problem? Who should solve it?

  • Although you can find books about multiethnic teens, there aren't many movies about them. Why do you think this is?

  • Take a shot at creating your own family tree. Ask parents, grandparents aunts and uncles to help fill in the blanks and you may hear stories you've never heard before.

Book details

Author:L. Tam Holland
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:July 23, 2013
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Teen, 14 years old Written byBetty L. January 2, 2014

Almost A Favorite Of Mine

This book is very well-written and the protagonist has an authentic, real voice in the novel. I loved this book, but Vee, the main character, fools around with a girl and describes her in detail, so this book is not good for kids under fourteen. That, however, is not a huge part of the story. The story is about finding yourself and who you are. In the second half of the book, Vee realizes he likes his best friend, a girl named Madison. It is very sweet how Vee treats her, and their relationship is arguably the most touching part of the story. While a lot of the book was very satisfying, the background idea that Vee knows nothing of his family tree is quite boring. If you, as a reader, get through the uneventful first few chapters, the rest of the book will be greatly rewarding. It might even stand as one of your favorites.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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