Girls on the Line

Jen­nie Liu

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Young Adult Fiction - MYA ALEXICE

Carol­rhoda Lab (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $18.99 (232pp), 978-1-5124-5938-8

Jen­nie Liu’s Girls on the Line is a gut-wrench­ing story of sis­ter­hood and per­se­ver­ance.

Early 2000s China, in the throes of fam­ily plan­ning poli­cies and mas­sive in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, isn’t kind to or­phaned girls like Luli and Yun, who are trapped in a sys­tem that con­trols their bod­ies po­lit­i­cally, phys­i­cally, and eco­nom­i­cally. Still, theirs are ex­tra­or­di­nary lives.

As chil­dren, Luli and Yun band to­gether. Life is de­bil­i­tat­ing in their or­phan­age, but their friend­ship lasts even when they age out of the govern­ment child­care sys­tem. They find work at an elec­tron­ics fac­tory do­ing tir­ing, day­long work. Ek­ing out this hard liv­ing re­wards them with in­de­pen­dence and some mod­icum of com­fort … un­til Yun dis­cov­ers that she’s preg­nant.

China’s laws pro­hibit un­wed girls from giv­ing birth, so Yun has only one true op­tion: abor­tion. But be­fore she can make any de­ci­sions, she van­ishes. Luli strug­gles to find her friend be­fore it is too late, con­cerned that she might have got­ten into trou­ble with the boy who got her preg­nant: a bride traf­ficker, Yong.

Told in al­ter­nat­ing points of view, the book’s lan­guage is clear and emo­tive. Yun and Luli are deep and com­plex. The sheer ex­ploita­tion that they must en­dure at the hands of traf­fick­ers, fac­tory bosses, and govern­ment reg­u­la­tions is bru­tal, but their some­times rocky re­la­tion­ship of­fers a glim­mer of hope and sis­ter­hood in the midst of trauma.

The Chi­nese set­ting is es­tab­lished seam­lessly; the na­tion’s laws, so­cial mores, and other nu­ances come through. Rife with ten­sion, in­ter­weav­ing threads, and mov­ing and star­tling mo­ments, the story cap­ti­vates and speaks to a po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion that still strug­gles with the af­ter­math of reg­u­la­tory poli­cies.

Both poignant and ag­o­niz­ing, Girls on the Line is a must read.

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