Sunday, August 26, 2012

Special Sunday Review: "More Than Meets the Eye"

I dug out my box of children's books from my closet yesterday and found some of my old elementary education books and notes. It was kind of sad, because I didn't make it in becoming a teacher, but funny because I found a few assignments, including some book reviews. So how about a special throw-back Sunday review? Today's is a tad longer so I'll do it by itself and then next Sunday will have 2 in 1. And maybe after that, I'll find something new/old to post on Sunday! Some old, angsty poetry perhaps? :) Oh and I will say up front that the quality of writing is um, not good. Sorry!

More Than Meets the Eye by Jeanne Betancourt, was published in 1990. It is appropriate for ages 10-15, but probably closer to 12 or 13. The cultures described in the book are those of the Chinese, Cambodians, and whites.

The story is set in a high school where there is only one Asian American, Ben, who usually gets along great with everyone. Then, a young Cambodian girl who can't speak English moves to town, and everyone tries to put the two together, like they are from the same culture. Ben gets upset, more so when his friend, Elizabeth, starts helping the girl learn English. Elizabeth is going through her own struggles with her parents. She likes Ben as a boyfriend, and since she is Caucasian and he is Chinese, neither one's parents approve. The story climaxes with the entire town in an uproar about Asians taking over, and the boy who has been insulting Ben throughout finally realizes what a racist he is. Ben and Elizabeth get together in the end, and the town begins to accept the new Asian families.

This book is a little oversimplified, but it makes its point well. It's trying to show how racism works and how it hurts people. The Asians are depicted as very smart and as hard workers. "They give him [Ben] better grades because they expect him to do better than you." The boy who insults Ben finally learns that what he is doing is wrong, when he has to help a Korean family and loses his job. Most children will understand the message of this book, even though they may not enjoy reading it. The author is trying too hard to get her point across.


  1. Ya know, when it comes to teen books, I tend to cringe when I see heavy subjects (like racism)oversimplified. I don't think the publishing world gives young readers enough credit. When I was a teen (ahem...a while back), I could tell when an author was really laying it on thick, and I naturally gravitated to the less diluted works (often classics). I'm sure most teens have the same discerning ability. Shame. Good post!

    1. I completely agree...I don't know if it's the authors or the publishers, but they should know better lol. Granted, this particular book was pretty dated when I read it (8-ish years ago) so maybe it's changed some now. I hope so!