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Zen and the Art of Faking It

by Sonnenblick, Jordan


Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9780439837071]

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Publishers Weekly :

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Starred Review. After San Lee's adoptive father is imprisoned for fraud, the eighth-grader moves with his mother from Texas to Pennsylvania. He has moved often, each time creating new identities; this time he pretends to be a Zen master. He sits zazen on a cold rock near school each morning and says things like, Thank you for teaching me the lesson of impermanence (this piece of wisdom comes after a foe ruins his schoolwork). As he hopes, his uniqueness impresses Woody, a folk-singing girl with her own family heartache. Together, they embark on a school project about Zen, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and even devise supposedly Zen strategies to help the second-string basketball team take on the starters (this includes a practice game on roller skates). Naturally, they fall for each other, although San thinks she has a crush on a mysterious stranger. Readers will know that it is only a matter of time before San is exposed as a fake, adopted, research-based Buddhist, but Sonnenblick (Notes from the Midnight Driver, see Paperback Reprints) gives them plenty to laugh at (in one scene, Woody calls on insect-phobic San to remove a centipede from class because of his well-known reverence for all living things). Mixed in with more serious scenes (San finally writes his father a letter expressing his anger), these lighter moments take a basic message about the importance of honesty and forgiveness and treat it with panache. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

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Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9780439837071]

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School Library Journal :

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Starred Review. Gr 7–9—San Lee is once again starting a new school. This time it's in Pennsylvania, but they're all really the same: same lunch menus; same classes; same everything. The only thing different in each one is San. Whether it was as a skater dude in California or a Bible-thumper in Alabama, he has reinvented himself at every new school in order to fit in. So who will he be in Pennsylvania? Certainly not himself, the poor adopted Chinese kid whose con-artist father is in prison. This time he wants to be someone different, someone who stands out instead of blending in. Someone who Woody, the intriguing guitar-playing girl in his social-studies class, would find attractive. That definitely isn't San…but it could be. With a little tweaking to his background and some research on Zen Buddhism, he may just become the most popular kid in school. From the teachers to the nuns to the students, the entire cast of this novel is fully developed. The breezy and natural writing style captures eighth-grade dialogue perfectly and the plot is both realistic and original. San Lee's story is that of a brilliant and amusing underdog, and middle schoolers everywhere will identify with his desire to be someone, even if it's someone he's not.—Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL

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Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 0439837073]

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BookList :

From BookList, October 1, 2007, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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San Lee sees a chance to reinvent himself. His father is in jail for fraud, and San and his mother have moved to Pennsylvania. Used to moving around for his dad's work, and often feeling out of place as a Chinese adoptee, San decides on a different strategy this time. When he learns that his social studies class is studying Buddhism, he slips into the persona of a Zen master-eighth-grade version. Most impressed is his adorable classmate, Woody, the person for whom he continues the charade, even as he continually enrages her stepbrother. There's lots to like here. The story moves at a brisk clip, and San's first-person narrative, though occasionally over the top, is filled with funny asides. But one crucial misunderstanding is so clear that readers will see it as the plot device it is, and the book never really takes into account that even though San is faking, the advice he proffers in his master mode is actually helping people. Still, this is a good choice for getting religion onto fiction shelves in an appealing way. Cooper, Ilene.

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