I don’t even have the words to write a cohesive review of Our Wayward Fate. I could go on and on about the plot which will keep you reading until long after you needed to leave the house. Or the characters which will charm you with their love of puns. But the icing on the cake was the way I could relate to Ali’s struggles as one of the few Asian Americans in her mostly white neighborhood.
Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, Ah-lee, after the mountain in Taiwan.
Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the they belong together whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.
But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Our Wayward Fate touched my heart. The ways Ali suffers from self-erasing her identity, her differences, deeply resonated with some of my own experiences growing up. When you laugh, because you think the feeling in your throat will go away, and instead the lump grows larger and more difficult to stomach. How comments make you uncomfortable without knowing the words to voice how. The racism Ali and Chase experience in this book was never as overt as what I experienced growing up, and our experiences are different as I’m a Chinese American adoptee, but I felt deeply seen in some of Ali’s experiences.
Chase Yu and Ali Chu
The arrival of Chase Yu in Ali’s school begins a tidal wave explosion. What follows is not only a wake up call to Ali to call out the racism in her friends and school, but also to confront some of the issues within her own family. Ali learned that it was easier to not make a ripple, to exist slightly under the surface. But Chase believes in speaking out at every opportunity. In their relationship they not only find a similar love for cheesy puns and martial arts, but also a kinship – a feeling of being seen by someone who can understand your same shorthand. Being on the same wavelength for the first time.
Ali and Chase are characters who will charm you not only with their contagious humor, but with their vulnerability. How they inspire each other to confront the elephants in the room, the shadows lurking in the corners. How it takes on person to say something, even when it’s a hard truth to hear, to remind you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Ali’s experiences where in some moments you feel like you blend in, but always knowing you can never truly fit in hit me in the gut.
Our Wayward Fate is perfect for fans of Frankly in Love and Picture Us in the Light – some of my other favorites. Chao weaves in snippets of The Butterfly Lover story not so much as a retelling, but using the story to illustrate the choices young lovers have between following their heart and giving up the fight. Our Wayward Fate is more than a love story. It’s a story of family, of the secrets of the past. When you talk past each other, put your fears and regrets on them. When good intentions meet bad execution.