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Private Label by Kelly Yang Review

Private Label
Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Synopsis of Private Label (Goodreads)

New York Times bestselling author Kelly Yang delivers a heartfelt and powerful YA romance about a Chinese American girl who gets help from the new boy in town to search for her dad after her successful fashion designer mother is diagnosed with cancer.

Serene dreams of making couture dresses even more stunning than her mom’s, but for now she’s an intern at her mom’s fashion label. When her mom receives a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, all that changes. Serene has to take over her mother’s business overnight, dealing with ruthless investors who do not think a seventeen-year-old can run a fashion empire, while trying to figure out what happened with her dad in Beijing. He left before she was born, and Serene wants to find him, even if it means going against her mom’s one request—never look back.

Lian Chen moved from China to Serene’s mostly white Southern California beach town a year ago. He doesn’t fit in at school, where kids mispronounce his name. His parents don’t care about what he wants to do—comedy—and push him toward going to MIT engineering early. Lian thinks there’s nothing to stick around for, until one day, he starts Chinese Club after school . . . and Serene walks in.

Worlds apart in the high school hierarchy, Serene and Lian soon find refuge in each other, falling in love as they navigate life-changing storms.

My Thoughts on Private Label

Private Label is my first book by Kelly Yang and I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was an easy and immersive read, I finished the book in two days. And I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book.

Our female protagonist is a 17 year old girl, Serene, who has been surrounded by fashion since birth because her mother is a famous fashion designer. She herself wants to work in the fashion industry when she grows up, following her mother’s footsteps.

In the beginning of the book, she finds out that her mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her entire world is shattered within few days. Now she has to deal with her mother’s cancer as well as trying to save the fashion brand that her mother worked so hard to build from scratch.

On the other hand, our male protagonist is Lian Chen. He is as the same age as Serene and his mother wants him to be engineer. Lian’s family immigrated recently to America so that he can have a better future and his mother makes him grind hard to be an engineer. But of course, he doesn’t want to be an engineer. Instead he wants to be a comedian. But he is afraid to tell his parents the truth because he knows his parents will disown him if he tells them he wants to be a comedian instead of an engineer. Yes, every Asian has been in Lian’s place at this point in their life, including me.

And soon Lian and Serene meets through a school club to learn Chinese. She has grown up without her father and she wants to find out more about him. She finds a letter from her father but it’s written in Chinese. Hence she joins Lian’s Chinese club to learn Chinese and soon they form a friendship.

This book showed well how out of place Lian and Serene felt among their classmates. They were the only Chinese students in their class and they felt like they didn’t belong there.

Out of the two, Lian is having more difficulty fitting in. He feels lonely at times and has no friends. When he befriends Serene, he feels like he finally found someone who understands him, and she feels the same way about him. Also, he secretly has a massive crush on her, so…

It is interesting to see that Serene and Lian both feel a sense of not belonging in that place. But whereas Lian is all accepting of his Chinese culture, on the other hand Serene has let go of her cultures and tried best to adapt with white culture. I found it really sad to see the extent people go just to ‘fit in’.

There was also kind of cheating involved since Serene was dating another guy when she met Lian. Usually I despise cheating in books (and also in real life) but it was acceptable here. Because she is just 17 years old and it was clear she didn’t like that other boy that much and they didn’t fit well together. She was still trying to figure out her feelings and that’s fine. We all go through phases like that. Serene and Lian’s friendship felt genuine and I was shipping them hard.

On top of it all, it was devastating to see Serene watch her mother deteriorate day by day. Her mother was having negative reactions to chemotherapy and it broke my heart to see how helpless and scared Serene felt. I cannot imagine being in Serene’s place and how hard that must have been. It is always so hard to read about the hardships of cancer patients.

Also, Serene acted like the perfect daughter. She tried her best to be there for her mother and helped her out in her work in managing the fashion company.

My issues with this book:

The first half was going strong like a 5 star read but towards the second half, things got a bit cliched. Now I don’t work in fashion industry and I don’t know how things work there, but it was hard to believe that a 17 year old girl would be able to run the fashion brand/ company. Plus Lian’s mom just accepted his choice to be a comedian with minimum resistance. That is just unrealistic.

Also, I felt things felt quite rushed towards the end.

Other than this small issues, I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book. It was an amazing YA book and I will highly recommend.

Bonus about this book: The cover is really beautiful.

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Keep an eye out for this book when it comes out next year!

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