Last night, I read Corinne's first book! Here's the summary and review!
If you don't want to be spoiled, don't click this post... BUT do click here to order the book for yourself!
After Corinne and Gwynn ski, they visit their stepdad Arne, a Swedish businessman, at his house in downtown Aspen, which they are about to move into. They go upstairs for the first time and are overwhelmed by how big the bedrooms are. As their mother makes them dinner, Corinne and Gwynn realize that it would be more fun to share a bedroom in their new home, but are still overwhelmed by the house.
At dinner, Arne doesn’t agree to the purple bedroom walls that Corinne and Gwynn want right away. He tells Gwynn that she’ll be getting private skating lessons, but she is more confused that her dad won’t be coming to her mom and Arne’s small city hall wedding. Corinne tells her that “that’s not what happens when people get divorced”. Corinne, on the other hand, worries about what her best friend Cassidy will think about Gwynn’s lessons because she thinks people who take private skating lessons are “snobs”. Arne suggests that Corinne takes competitive skiing, but Corinne insists on skiing for fun and worries that Arne will favor Gwynn because she doesn’t have a “special skill” to master.
During Gwynn’s first lesson, Corinne’s mom talks to her about the bedroom walls. She says the house is professionally decorated and Arne will need to talk to his decorator about it, which annoys Corinne. At the lesson, Gwynn starts to prepare for a competition for the next month, and after, Corinne and Arne exit the rink through the doors. After Corinne touches the door, a bot tells his friend not to touch it because Corinne has “Kung flu”. This hurts Corinne, and Arne doesn’t understand and instead talks about how he linked his credit card to her ski pass.
On their dad’s weekend, Corinne and Gwynn go to Buttermilk Mountain, where he works as a ski instructor. Corinne notices a talented skier on the mountain, Eileen Gu, who won her first World Cup at the age of 15. As Corinne practices her skiing, she wonders how Eileen made skiing look easy. Her dad tells her to practice more. As Corinne practices, Gwynn talks about Arne, and Corinne tells her not to do that. Dad tells her that it’s fine, but Corinne doesn’t believe that.
Cassidy asks Corinne for a sleepover, but she refuses because the wedding is that day. Corinne then thinks about how Cassidy thinks that everyone who lives in the part of town that Arne lives in is stuck up, and worries about how to tell her about the truth. After school, Corinne and her friends Jenna and Kelsey go up to the ski lift, but she sees the boy who said that she had “Kung flu” and tries to avoid him. While alone, a woman named Ellen notices Corinne and shows her search and rescue dogs training. Corinne then realizes that she wants to train a search and rescue dog.
When Corinne tells Arne about her idea, he worries a bit because his childhood dog bit things, but then her mom reminds him that a trainer can be hired if they run into a problem. To look at the dogs, Corinne and her family go to an animal shelter, and Corinne finds a dog named Flurry. She falls in love. Arne and Mom insist that they came just to look, but Corinne and Gwynn insist that they properly meet Flurry. Flurry greets the family and wins the parents over, so Corinne finally gets her dog.
A few weeks later, Flurry adapts to living with Corinne’s family, and both Corinne and Gwynn love having Flurry around and can’t imagine life any other way. Pretty soon, it’s the day of Mom and Arne’s wedding, and Corinne and Gwynn each get necklaces to celebrate.
After the wedding, Corinne’s dad takes her and Gwynn to a private fire pit in Buttermilk Mountain. Corinne feels embarrassed while talking about her necklace, but Dad says it’s fine and gives Corinne and Gwynn his own gift- a poster signed by Eileen Gu.
Corinne and Gwynn are surprised with their own decorated shared bedroom. They’re happy, but Corinne is disappointed that her new poster has to stay in her closet. Corinne also worries more about keeping secrets from Cassidy about Arne but is happy when she can finally hang out with her friend at a park with Corinne’s dad. Corinne brings Flurry so she can work with her, and her dad introduces her to Zach, a dog trainer. The two train Flurry together, and Zach notices that Corinne has a special bond with Flurry.
After seeing Flurry, Cassidy keeps asking to see Flurry again. Corinne makes excuses to keep Cassidy away, but Cassidy also notices other things, like a new phone Arne purchased Corinne. Finally, Corinne decides to hang out with Cassidy at her mom’s new Chinese street food restaurant, Kuai Le. While making zongzi, Corinne’s favorite food, Corinne’s mom gets a call about Gwynn’s costume, which Corinne covers up in front of Cassidy. Cassidy and Corinne make more zongzi together, and Dad arrives to pick up Corinne. He fights with Mom over trying to coordinate dropping off Cassidy and picking up Gwynn from her friend Pippa’s house, and Corinne and Cassidy leave the situation. Corinne tells Cassidy that she feels stressed when her parents fight, and Cassidy confides in her. She feels like she wants to tell Cassidy everything, but doesn’t.
When they arrive at Dad’s house, he shows Corinne and Gwynn a meteor shower. The girls wish for different things: Gwynn wishes for a trophy at her competition, but Corinne wishes for Cassidy and her to remain friends and for her and Flurry to be a good team.
To spread the word about Kuai Le, Mom tasks Corinne and Gwynn with giving out zongzi and telling them about the restaurant. Corinne worries that nobody will want a zongzi and say that it’ll give them coronavirus, but the samples go away in 10 minutes. After their success, Corinne and Gwynn make a “sister shrine” together, and Gwynn adds her necklace.
While playing with Flurry near Kuai Le, Corinne overhears a man telling his friend that Flurry’s lucky not to be on the menu of the restaurant. Corinne explains the situation to Gwynn, and it makes her cry. Mom calls the racist men out, but when Arne comes in and Corinne tells him about the situation, he tells her to not be upset. Corinne feels bothered by this because it feels like he’s ignoring him.
At school one day, Cassidy asks Corinne when she can see Flurry again and asks to help with the training. Corinne refuses. Soon, she looks at an old newspaper about the Chinese Exclusion Act and learns that it existed. After her teacher, Mrs. Lomond, says that the important thing about history is to “learn from the past so we don’t make the same mistakes”, Corinne decides to tell Arne what she learned so he will understand. Gwynn complains that she can’t get the toe loop that she’s been learning, and Corinne encourages her. Arne then yells at Flurry for taking his shoes, and when Corinne tries to tell him about the Chinese Exclusion Act, Arne walks away to take a phone call.
On the day of the ice skating meet, Gwynn wakes Corinne up at 5 in the morning. While Mom sets up her food, Arne gives Corinne money to buy a T-shirt again. The same racist boy from earlier teases Corinne again, and she stands up for herself as her mother did. Corinne tells Arne, but yet again, he brushes it off and tells her to forget about it. When Gwynn skates, Corinne notices Cassidy, who asks why Corinne didn’t tell her Gwynn was skating. Cassidy feels hurt, and while Corinne tries to defend herself, Gwynn stumbles on the ice and feels hurt that Corinne didn’t encourage her. Feeling overwhelmed, Corinne runs away.
Corinne runs to the mountains, looking for the sister shrine, feeling hurt. She notices that the shrine is gone, and realizes that she is lost.
As Corinne screams for help, she feels bad about what she did and ends up missing her family. Flurry ends up finding her, and a ski patroller brings Corinne to her family. Gwynn explains that it was her idea to tell Flurry to find Corinne. Arne comes in and makes up with Corinne, telling her that he’ll try to listen and believe Corinne’s feelings. Cassidy makes up with Corinne, and she finds a place for her Eileen Gu poster. The book ends with the friends deciding to ask Arne if Cassidy can sleep over.
My Review: This book was good, but in my honest opinion, it could have been done a little better.
One thing I really liked about this book is the characters. I could understand each of them easily, and all of them were very well done. Corinne was my favorite character because of her development throughout the book as she learned to stand up for herself with her family and friends and with the outside world.
Wendy Wan-Long Shang also did a great job talking about many important issues in this book. It dealt with racism, divorce, and remarriage in a kid-friendly way and showed the impact that they all would have on a 10-year-old girl. As some of you may know, my parents divorced when I was a few years older than Corinne, and it honestly felt vindicating reading about how it all feels at the beginning.
I did like the plot of the book, and all the individual elements were done well. But where the "it could have been done better" portion comes from is how the book jumped around from topic to topic most of the time. There were four separate story arcs surrounding Corinne: her parents' remarriage and divorce issues, the racism she faces, her friendship struggle with Cassidy, and training Flurry. Gwynn had her own arc too, but it wasn't a big part of the story since it had nothing to do with the rest of the plot and she didn't contribute to Corinne's part as much.
Now, I hate to get all "screenwriter" on you guys, but that's too much on one character for one story. If, say, I woke up tomorrow and decided to give the main character of my movie four different plotlines, then the whole thing would be a mess. There's a reason why I (and many other writers) stick to one main external conflict and one main internal conflict/character motivation, as well as giving other characters arcs and motives that elevate the rest of the story. I feel like this book was trying to accomplish so much, but focusing on one or two things would have made for a better story and a better ending. I still liked it and would recommend it to American Girl fans, and if you want to order it, you can click here!
This book gets a 6.5/10 from me.
P.S: AmericanGirlStar asked me to tell my readers if Corinne is Jewish since Wendy Wan-Long Shang often writes about Chinese-Jewish characters. No religion was specified in this book, but I haven't read Corinne's second book yet (will do today) so there could still be a chance!