Liana Liu’s second novel, Shadow Girl, is a coming-of-age tale wrapped in a ghost story. Mei’s father left home a couple of years before the book begins, and since then, she and her Chinese mother have struggled to make ends meet and keep her brother out of trouble. Now that Mei has graduated from high school, she’s making plans to earn money during the summer before attending the local city college in the fall.
After many years as a camp counselor and academic tutor, Mei gets a job tutoring a young girl named Ella Morison at her wealthy family’s summer house on Arrow Island. With room and board included along with generous pay, Mei is sure this is a great plan. When she gets to the island and meets Ella, Mei discovers the job may be harder than she anticipated. There is something wrong with the house and Ella’s family. Does Mei really see a ghost? Does Ella? What does the ghost want? While Mei tries to answer these supernatural questions, she also unravels her own complicated feelings about Ella’s stepbrother, Henry, her goals in life and who she really is.
Liu’s writing style is compelling, making Shadow Girl difficult to put down. Readers may find it strange that the main character’s name is mentioned only once, in the penultimate chapter, in Chinese. Regardless of this irritation, Shadow Girl is a darn good read.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.