‘This Is Just a Test’ tells timeless story set in Cold War era

“This Is Just a Test,” $17.99, by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg. (Image courtesy of Scholastic Press.)

David Da-Wei Horowitz can’t please his Jewish or Chinese grandmothers. In “This is Just a Test,” 12-year-old David grows up during the Cold War, fearing nuclear attack and not fitting in. When his Chinese grandmother Wai Po moves in, his Jewish Safta decides to move Virginia from New York City to plan David’s bar mitzvah.

Authors Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg craft an irresistibly funny coming-of-age tale of a Chinese-Jewish-American boy. “This Is Just a Test” captures David’s struggle between cultures and friends with wit and authenticity, without tedious hectoring. The characters are real people with deep emotions, rather than stereotypes.

David’s grandmothers fight over what to make for Thanksgiving, but agree David is insufficiently Jewish or Chinese for them. He does his best to win them over, along with his friend Scott, who wants to win their upcoming trivia tournament. Scott dislikes their teammate — and David’s best friend — Hector. David and Scott begin digging a fallout shelter together, until David is unsure about spending forever in an underground bunker with Scott. Maybe things would be better with Hector and David’s crush, a kind caramel-blonde named Kelli Ann. For David, surviving nuclear war feels like the least of his problems.

“This Is Just a Test” is a heartwarming tale of a boy on the cusp of manhood. It’s written for eight- to 12-year-olds for a wonderful summer book.

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About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England

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