At eighteen, Anna is in limbo. She has decisions to make but stalls for time. Deferring her university studies in Australia, she visits her father in Shanghai. In an exotic environment, her life seems both better and worse: she loves learning Chinese painting but can’t cope with being a foreigner, or with the chaos and heat of the city.
Then the last thing she could have imagined happens: she falls in love with Chenxi, a young, mysterious fellow painter whose secret life in art and counter-revolutionary activities fascinates Anna. Their affair is passionate and fraught.
Sally Rippin writes with a natural flair and an insider’s voice about the torment of a teenager on the verge of adulthood. She evokes the thrills and spills of being a foreigner in the topsy-turvy world of China.
Chenxi is a remarkable novel for young adults that confronts adolescent sexual experience, pregnancy and cross-cultural questions in an extraordinarily vivid and compelling story.
About the Author
Sally Rippin was born in Darwin and grew up in South-East Asia. As an adolescent she studied traditional Chinese painting for three years in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Returning to Australia, her time overseas inspired her first novel Chenxi and the Foreigner.
Sally has also written and illustrated many books for children, including titles from the Go Girl and Aussie Bites series and the popular Fang Fang stories. She is also the illustrator for many others, including the recent Me, Oliver Bright (2009) by Megan de Kantzow and Mannie and the Long Brave Day (2009) by Martine Murray.
Sally lives in Melbourne and writes and illustrates full time.
The lives of a naive, spoiled American teen, a rebellious Chinese art student and a hashish-dealing French student collide in four weeks in April 1989, with lifelong consequences. Anna's micromanaging father arranges for her to study at a Shanghai art college, hires fellow student Chenxi to translate for her and sets her up with French Laurent (who is immediately, inexplicably smitten). Anna's refusal to learn about the political realities of China even as she rhapsodizes about and romanticizes the people and traditions leads to trouble for both boys, while privileged Anna flees safely home. Shifting perspectives allow readers to understand a bit of Chinese history and culture on the eve of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but the bulk of the novel follows unlikable Anna, infatuated with Chenxi and stumbling blindly about in classic white-foreigner mode while loudly proclaiming how she isn't like the other foreigners. The historical aspects are elegantly conveyed, but characters often feel flat, an effect enhanced by the largely passive voice. Ultimately, this love-triangle tale lacks passion and excitement. (introduction, afterword) (Historical fiction. 13 & up) (Kirkus Reviews)
Audience: Teenager / Young Adult
For Ages: 13+ years old
Published: 3rd March 2008
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.9 x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.17