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Just Like Me: 11/28/16

Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh is set at a religious summer camp where three adopted girls have a falling out when put into a cabin with a very competitive girl. Julia, the narrator, has been brought together with Avery and Becca, two other girls who were adopted from the same orphanage in China that she was.

Avery and Becca are more connected with their Chinese heritage, though they have turned it into a uniquely American experience — much as eating Cheetos with chopsticks. Julia, meanwhile, feels no connection to her past except for an old photograph she has of herself sitting on the steps of the orphanage — a photo that every child adopted from there has a version of.

Mostly though the book is about the girls being stuck in a horrible cabin and being forced to compete against other cabins for prizes. I've seen this plot before so it must be a thing somewhere. The only summer camp I went to was a Girl Scout Camp where the idea is togetherness, not competition.

It's hard for the three Chinese "sisters" to come together as friends while being in a summer camp competition. It's made worse by a very high strung girl who I kept picturing as Paris Geller from The Gilmore Girls.

The set up reminds me of a pair of coworkers who were hired at the same time. Both were from the midwest and both were adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage — though not the same one. The adoption story, here, is based on the author's experience as a mother of an adopted child which she explains in an afterword.

As the inspiration for the story is so personal, I wanted to know more of the back story of how Julia came to meet (or re-meet) Avery and Becca. So much of that initial meeting in the United States is left unsaid that I wondered if Just Like Me was a sequel but it doesn't seem to be.

Two stars

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