MISS FORTUNE COOKIE is a witty and smart book about a teenage girl with a secret identity. Erin Kavanagh clandestinely writes a blog called "Miss Fortune Cookie." It’s a self-help column that is gaining popularity. Erin’s uncle is a ghostwriter and gives her some excellent tips: Advice seekers already know the answer they seek. The second paragraph of the seeker’s question reveals the answer they want. Therefore all Erin needs to do is rewrite the seeker’s advice in her own words. Although she is young, she has plenty to say about insecurity, love and friendship. However, first she will have to navigate her own complicated relationships.
"I recommend this book because it makes the reader examine one’s own relationships. Sometimes, we have to decide what information to share with others and what to keep to ourselves.
For starters, Erin is conflicted about her friend, Mei who is too afraid to tell her mom she has a boyfriend because Mei’s mom feels that a boyfriend is a distraction from school. Erin has a knack for seeing both sides of the story. On the one hand, her friend may have found her one and only true love, but on the other hand, she feels that Mei has a duty toward following her mom’s advice. After all, Mei’s mom has made sacrifices for her daughter, and has Mei’s best interests at heart. She sees that her friend is torn between hurting her boyfriend and her mom. But Mei isn’t the only one keeping secrets.
It turns out that Erin has a few of her own. A while back, Erin and her other friend, Linny, made a pact that they would attend the same college and be roommates. But Linny doesn’t have the same ambitions to get into Ivy League schools as Erin. When Erin finds out that she is accepted to Harvard, she doesn’t want to let her friend down. She creates excuses to herself that her mom will be lonely if she moves so far away from home. In fact, the thought of letting her friend down is so great that she is willing to consider going to another school just to avoid a conflict. Deep inside she really wants to go to Harvard. It seems so simple to tell the truth, but it complicates how a friend or mom will react.
The Lauren Bjorkman weaves her knowledge of Chinese traditions and words in to the story. First, it talks about the strong ties the Chinese feel for duty and family. Mei comments that her mom believes in the old traditions of obeying your elders. Her mother makes several comments that duty and family come before everything else, and she also sends money to her family in China. Second, Bjorkman explains the beauty and simplicity behind the Chinese language. For instance one time when Erin is at a coffee shop she calls a creepy man, “pang zhu,” which means fat pig. The back of the book even has two full pages of Chinese words with pronunciations and translations. Additionally, there is little history behind the fortune cookie, and each chapter title is a written out like a Chinese fortune. The fortunes are funny with a snarky twist to them. And Confucius sayings are sprinkled throughout the book. Erin comments that Confucius had a lot to say about duty, family and the correct way to life live, but he completely avoids commenting on the love between friends and lovers.
This is a clever story that encompasses not only friendship and love, but the boundaries of those relationships. Perhaps we all have double identities like Erin and Miss Fortune Cookie. I recommend this book because it makes the reader examine one’s own relationships. Sometimes, we have to decide what information to share with others and what to keep to ourselves. This book navigates its way through these murky issues in an interesting and entertaining way. Hopefully there will be a sequel so I can see what adventures Erin takes on in college!