Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review and Interview (T2T): Exclusively Chloe by J. A. Yang

Welcome to the first Traveling to Teens tour that I am doing here on my blog! Today we have the supremely kind and interesting Jonathan Yang, debut author of Exclusively Chloe! Since May was Asian and Pacific Islander Awareness (APIA) Month, Jon and I thought it would be nice to have a more culture-related Q&A post. I found his answers fascinating, and so I hope you enjoy too!

Q&A with Jonathan Yang

1. Can you tell us about your cultural background? Where were you born? What was your childhood like? How important is your culture to you?

I'm Chinese but by way of Taiwan. I was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when I was six. Growing up as a typical Chinese kid, the emphasis was always on discipline and academics. My Saturdays for twelve years straight were taken over by Chinese school, which I hated at the time, but realized how many positive influences it left me with as I got older.

During college, I was involved in Asian Pacific American organizations, both as a social and activism outlet. Some of my fondest experiences from college was joining and producing culture shows that encompassed traditional Chinese dances, arts, culture, all blended with Asian American influences. The school I went to, the University of Michigan, had a very active and involved APA scene.

2. How does your culture affect what you write about and how you write, if it does?

Mostly, being Chinese means that I'm always really intrigued by the work of other Asian American artists, and whenever there is a lead character that is non-Caucasian, I perk up and pay extra attention. I think it influences my writing because there's always a certain responsibilty to put some of my own culture in a work, even if it's something as simple as having an Asian as a prominent character.

3. It's still, unfortunately, unusual to find minority protagonists in YA lit, and I love that Chloe-Grace is Chinese American. What inspired you to write her character and give her the qualities that she has?

With the adoption angle of Exclusively Chloe, it seemed really natural and timely to have Chloe-Grace adopted from China. I had really wanted to create a lead Asian American character and to show that while it was a part of her, it didn't define her.

Before writing my own book, I hadn't been exposed to many minority protagonists, especially Asian ones, in YA and it was thrilling to read the works of Justina Chen Headley, An Na, Grace Lin, and Lisa Yee. Since then, I've kept a sharp eye out for any minority protagonists and see how other authors explore and illuminate that experience. Recently I've been reading Cindy Pon's "Silver Phoenix" and Neesha Meminger's "Shine, Coconut Moon," both of which are wonderful in all respects but also special because of their strong minority main characters.

4. How did you come to write YA lit?

I sort of fell into it. It was a genre that I hadn't been previously aware of but I had a natural affinity and writing style that seemed to fit. Plus, many of my favorite books, movies, tv shows seemed to involve teenagers and I love exploring the moment when people transition from a child to an adult, which is such a powerful time in everyone's lives and full of intriguing moments and thus stories.

5. Will we be seeing more Asian American characters from you in the future?

I'm sure that will happen. I'd love to take Chloe overseas, or more into her Chinese heritage, or to explore Asian American characters from a different angle away from the Exclusively Chloe universe, something that can be reflective of my own experiences.


Exclusively Chloe by J. A. Yang

Tags: YA, Hollywood, adoption, paparazzi


Being the first celebrity adopted kid doesn’t make Chloe-Grace’s life easy. The Chinese American has had her fair share of the limelight, even before her superstar parents file for divorce and publicly party, to Chloe-Grace’s humiliation. Tired of a life that’s constantly in the tabloids, not to mention her best friend Rachelle’s love for all the attention, Chloe-Grace decides to go “undercover.” She learns that her biological parents and younger brother live in a less classier neighborhood nearby, and decides to attend her brother Henry’s “normal” high school in an attempt to be anonymous and maybe connect with her family.


Exclusively Chloe depicts the harsh realities of Hollywood politics without being too trashy. Chloe-Grace is a relatable and likable protagonist, a young girl caught in between the glitz of celebrity life and a desire to know what it feels like to be normal. If you’ve ever wondered what Brad and Angelina’s lot might feel like as teenagers, there is an excellent possibility—one can hope!—that they will turn out like Chloe-Grace: a down-to-earth girl who doesn’t take her glamorous situation for granted, yet knows how to have fun with what she has.

Besides for Chloe-Grace, however, most of the other characters are not that interesting. You have your basic attention-obsessed best friend, flamboyant homosexual stylists, career-oriented parents, super-nice everyday classmates at the “normal” high school, the perfectly sweet romantic interest. The stereotypes and generalizations bogged the story down for me, leading to an unsatisfying conclusion that was too neat, too easily wrapped up.

The shortcomings can be cast aside, however, if you’re simply looking for a fun and new look into Hollywood life. Chloe-Grace’s story of the trials and tribulations of being a celebrity-adopted kid will be the one everyone can turn to for a glimpse at how they live—at least until Maddox and his brothers and sisters hit puberty.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5


Thank you, Jon and Penguin Books for sending me a copy of the book. And another BIG thank you to Jon for answering my questions! Other stops on the T2T Exclusively Chloe blog tour can be found here.


  1. Great review and interview :)

  2. Great interview. I liked the little culture lesson. =) Exclusively Chloe sounds good too.

  3. Stop by my blog when you get a chance, I have an award for you:)

  4. Good brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you on your information.


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