Monday, January 28, 2013

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Arthur A. Levine Books (January 1, 2013) 336 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I'm not the best at reading descriptions before I pick up a book. I judged this one based on its cover, which isn't unusual for me, sadly! I thought it looked like a fun, contemporary story and decided to give it a shot. Plus, it's a goal of mine to read more "cultural" books, especially those with covers that haven't been "whitewashed". Apparently, those books have a harder time making it these days, so it's important to show some support!

This ended up not being a fun, contemporary story, but I still enjoyed it. "Enjoy" probably isn't the best word to describe my reading experience with this book, though. The Fire Horse Girl takes place in the 1920s. It details the journey of a Chinese family to America, paying close attention to Jade Moon...aka "The Fire horse Girl". It was amazing to see the mistreatment of the Chinese from both their fellow Chinese to Americans and other immigrants from different countries. They were treated like scum, to say the least. I appreciated the way the author handled the tough topics, like prostitution, "tongs"(Chinese mobs) and other general mistreatment. There were never great details, but I still got a good look at just how heartbreaking their situation was. She handled it in a way that I think this is a great book for even younger readers.

Jade Moon lives in a time and place where women are to be quiet and keep their eyes lowered. Since Jade Moon is a "Fire Horse" girl(the worst kind of girl there is, according to Chinese tradition), she finds these restrictions difficult. She prefers to let her opinions be known, and bad luck supposedly follows close on her heels. She's almost 17, which means she should have already been married, which is not something she wants considering her prospects. She's determined that if she can only get to America, her problems will be solved.

Due to the cover, I don't think it should come as a surprise that Jade Moon disguises herself as a boy at one point. Even though this part doesn't come until halfway or more through the story, I still don't feel like I'm giving any spoilers. Again, because of the cover. I will keep quiet about how and why, though. Girls who disguise themselves as boys(in order to survive...not simply for fun) are some of my favorite story plots! I really enjoyed this part of the book, and liked getting to see the relationships she was able to form during her time in disguise.

I'm also a fan of fairy tales, so I really enjoyed hearing some of the Chinese fairy tales that were included in the book. There was close attention paid to "The Weaver Girl" story. I'm assuming this story was a traditional Chinese story, as opposed to the author's imagination, but I still enjoyed it either way.

Overall, The Fire Horse Girl is a great peek into the world of Chinese immigrants during the 1920s, and I don't hesitate to recommend it, even for young readers.

Content: There's no profanity. There is some violence, but as I mentioned above, the author doesn't go into great detail. There's fighting, guns, mention of prostitution/brothels, poking/prodding/nudity during "check-ups" to get into America, etc.

*I was provided an e-ARC through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. The cover looks so contemporary so I was very thrown to realize it was historical. Looking forward to checking this one soon!

    1. Me too! I was surprised as I started reading, so I had to reprogram my brain.

  2. I have this one on my bookshelf and look forward to reading it. There are not enough YA historical fiction books out there and yet it's a good genre that I am liking more and more.