Review: Mountain Girl River Girl by Ting-Xing Ye

With this post comes two sets of bad news:

  1. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would have, and
  2. I’m pretty bad at reviewing books I didn’t really enjoy.

Still, here’s my attempt at reviewing this book:

But first, a watered-down summary of what happens:Β Mountain Girl River Girl is about two girls, aged 15, who have lived in the rural parts of modern-day China for their entire lives. For various reasons, Pan-pan (Mountain Girl) and Shui-lian (River Girl) leave their family and homes to find work in the big cities. But obviously things don’t go as planned and they journey through series of mishaps each before their paths cross by coincidence. Then they forge a friendship and learn to stick together through difficulties.

I know, the story doesn’t sound that compelling.That’s because it isn’t. It’s a rather simplistic story, and slightly underwhelming because of the simple language used. While I usually don’t have an issue with that, I felt like Mountain Girl River Girl just had something missing. It was supposed to be a heartfelt story, what with all the things Shui-lian and Pan-pan went through, but the way it was executed was lacklustre despite Ye’s effort to tell us how Shui-lian and Pan-pan were feeling. Or maybe that’s exactly where the problem lies – there was a whole lot of “telling” rather than “showing”.

I would still give it 3 stars though. What redeemed this story and kept me reading was simply because it touched on things we don’t often encounter in our privileged lives: marrying off girls because of poverty, sweatshop factories, swindling, exploitation, shame etc. Additionally, Shui-lian and Pan-pan’s characters were distinct and often contrasting, offering some flavour and tension into the otherwise insipid story.

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