Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword

336p. Holt. Apr. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250165695.
Gr 5–8—In this martial arts fantasy, the Empress Dowager has sent 14-year-old Peasprout Chen and her little brother Cricket to Pearl, a city constructed from a porcelainlike substance that enables its residents to rely on skating for transport. Peasprout Chen and Cricket must adjust to a new school, the Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, where they confront cliques and mean kids while studying wu liu, a form of martial arts—style figure skating. Peasprout must also combat the rumors that she is a spy—rumors fueled by a wave of sabotage that coincides with her arrival. Much of this tale mandates an enthusiastic suspension of disbelief and an appreciation of over-the-top action sequences. In one scene, Peasprout swims in her skates; in another, students fling their partners high enough into the air to engage in aerial combat over the rooftops. In a problematic scene, however, a 14-year-old girl is left fighting in only her underpants, calling to mind a long history of scantily clad female fighters introduced into film and prose to titillate rather than empower.
VERDICT The topless fight scene moves this book solidly into the do-not-purchase column, which is unfortunate because it might otherwise have found a home where high-octane action and adventure tales are appreciated.

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