I made it.
I ran down the airline ramp all sweaty and winded, my bags swinging from side to side, including the canvas bag Jake gave me as a goodbye present that reads Smart Women Don’t Kiss Ass, They Kick It in bold pink
I almost missed my flight because deep down inside, I still wasn’t sure I should leave. It was no surprise that leaving Jonathan behind was heart-wrenching. We stood there holding each other in the middle of the busy JFK terminal for what felt like forever, with Jake looking on.
Even though I was trying to be fully present in Jonathan’s arms, I could see and feel Jake’s anxiety in the distance. He kept checking his phone. I wish I could have helped resolve all his problems before I left, but I just couldn’t.
Fashion blogger and Parsons School of Design student Clementine has the opportunity to travel to Shanghai during the summer and attend a prestigious exchange program at the Conde Nast Center. However, she seems to be leaving at the worst time. Her photographer boyfriend Jonathan seems quite distant, and she knows that something is wrong with her best friend Jake, but he won’t tell her what is happening. Coupled with this, she seems to be in a flirtatious online relationship with Henry, another student at the Conde Nast Center, and she is trying to be careful to not be unfaithful to Jonathan. Clementine has also been told by a professor that she should take her successful fashion blog in a new direction, and she must decide whether to stay true to herself or do as her professor has suggested.
Bonjour Shanghai, the second in the “Bonjour Girl” series, the first being Bonjour Girl is a fasted-paced contemporary story that examines the life of an exchange student in a country that is both familiar and unfamiliar. Clementine is half-Chinese and has family in Shanghai, and so she has those familial connections; however, because she has never lived outside of Paris or New York, she must cope with learning an entirely new city. All her friends are in New York, and Henry has made it known that he wants a more official relationship. Clementine is also having problems at school as a few of her new professors seem to think she was let into the program because of family connections. Clementine must deal with all these issues as well as try to figure out if Henry’s motivations are truly in her best interests
The mystery of why both Jonathan and Jake are acting strangely as well as uncovering Henry’s motivation for befriending Clementine will spur readers on. These storylines are realistic and are a refreshing addition to a book that could be described as a love letter to fashion, and they raise the book from a piece of frothy YA fiction to one that is thought-provoking. Would readers act like Clementine? How would they do things differently?
I recommend Bonjour Shanghai to fans of Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot, as well as Sophie Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” series. Clementine is a smart, strong female character who stands by her friends and has a strong moral compass. The diversity of the characters (Caucasian, Asian, LGBTQ, disabled) will also be a strong draw to many different readers.
Sarah Wethered has been a teacher-librarian at New Westminster Secondary School for 20 years, and she currently lives in New Westminster, British Columbia. She is a 2020 Angela Thacker Memorial Award winner.