By Andrew Xia Fukuda
Available now from AmazonEncore
Amazon has managed to piss a lot of publishers off recently - the delisting of Macmillan, for example. Not exactly an auspicious start for its foray into publishing. But if CROSSING is an indication of the quality of books they intend to publish, that is an auspicious start.
Andrew Xia Fukuda writes with authority. One of the major problems with small press books is the quality of the writing and editing. But Fukuda's grammar is good and his control of language is strong. CROSSING moves from meditative to harsh to creepy smoothly. The story moves back and forth in time, and I only found the transition jarring once. (Xing's father's death happens suddenly, and there is barely time to process it. In a way, it does fit.)
The main storyline is about Xing Xu, the only Chinese male at his school, finding a way out of his shell through the school's musical just as a series of disappearances and murders of high school boys begin. Xing's only real friend is Naomi Lee, the only other Chinese kid at the school. Her features are more Western and her English is better, while everyone confuses Xing with the Virginia Tech killer despite their lack of resemblance. She blends in better despite originally being the more FOB-ish.* The strain in his only close relationship doesn't do anything for his attitude.
Here's why I know Fukuda is a good writer: I emphasized with Xing and his struggles despite the fact he is not a nice person. He's cruel and petty. Fukuda makes his behavior understandable and illuminates the racism that helped shape Xing's attitude. He doesn't condone Xing's behavior, but presents it as part of his harsh look at American society and its attitudes toward race. It also works because Xing is more than his race. He's a young, lonely boy with a musical gift and no opportunities to express it.
In my mind, I'm going to pretend that CROSSING ends before the real end. It comes to a logical conclusion, but it sure is a downer ending. We all know I'm a sucker for happy endings. Fukuda's debut is atmospheric, character-driven, and affecting. CROSSING is very timely, considering the Virginia Tech Massacre happened only three years ago, but it explore several themes that will be relevant for a long time. The immigrant experience is essential to America.
I both like and dislike the cover. I think it captures the tone of the mystery very well. It has the woods, the figure that is there and isn't, and a moody palette. At the same time, it gives no indication of the conversation about being Chinese in America, which is also an important part of the novel and could draw as many readers in as the mystery.
*FOB stands for fresh-off-the-boat. I've heard the slur used more by immigrants talking about other immigrants, but that could be different elsewhere. Yes, it is a slur and not a nice thing to say.