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Gold Mountain

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Working on the Transcontinental Railroad promises a fortune—for those who survive. Growing up in 1860s China, Tam Ling Fan has lived a life of comfort. Her father is wealthy enough to provide for his family but unconventional enough to spare Ling Fan from the debilitating foot-binding required of most well-off girls. But Ling Fan’s life is upended when her brother dies of i Working on the Transcontinental Railroad promises a fortune—for those who survive. Growing up in 1860s China, Tam Ling Fan has lived a life of comfort. Her father is wealthy enough to provide for his family but unconventional enough to spare Ling Fan from the debilitating foot-binding required of most well-off girls. But Ling Fan’s life is upended when her brother dies of influenza and their father is imprisoned under false accusations. Hoping to earn the money that will secure her father’s release, Ling Fan disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s contract to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America. Life on “the Gold Mountain” is grueling and dangerous. To build the railroad that will connect the west coast to the east, Ling Fan and other Chinese laborers lay track and blast tunnels through the treacherous peaks of the Sierra Nevada, facing cave-ins, avalanches, and blizzards—along with hostility from white Americans. When someone threatens to expose Ling Fan’s secret, she must take an even greater risk to save what’s left of her family . . . and to escape the Gold Mountain alive.


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Working on the Transcontinental Railroad promises a fortune—for those who survive. Growing up in 1860s China, Tam Ling Fan has lived a life of comfort. Her father is wealthy enough to provide for his family but unconventional enough to spare Ling Fan from the debilitating foot-binding required of most well-off girls. But Ling Fan’s life is upended when her brother dies of i Working on the Transcontinental Railroad promises a fortune—for those who survive. Growing up in 1860s China, Tam Ling Fan has lived a life of comfort. Her father is wealthy enough to provide for his family but unconventional enough to spare Ling Fan from the debilitating foot-binding required of most well-off girls. But Ling Fan’s life is upended when her brother dies of influenza and their father is imprisoned under false accusations. Hoping to earn the money that will secure her father’s release, Ling Fan disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s contract to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America. Life on “the Gold Mountain” is grueling and dangerous. To build the railroad that will connect the west coast to the east, Ling Fan and other Chinese laborers lay track and blast tunnels through the treacherous peaks of the Sierra Nevada, facing cave-ins, avalanches, and blizzards—along with hostility from white Americans. When someone threatens to expose Ling Fan’s secret, she must take an even greater risk to save what’s left of her family . . . and to escape the Gold Mountain alive.

30 review for Gold Mountain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paige

    This is a wonderful story of resilience, perseverance, strength and family devotion. I was gripped from the first page and couldn’t put this book down. Ling is a strong female character who goes to unimaginable lengths to save her family. The book is beautifully written and tells a heartbreaking story of a chapter in America’s history that I had not known much about. I am looking forward to future books by Betty Yee!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kuschel

    I found myself immersed in the world of Ling, first in China and then America in the 1860s, from the very first page. Betty Yee writes with an accessible, descriptive prose perfect for a YA novel. Readers will find themselves both connecting to the character's common human experiences and marveling at the strength and difficult choices Ling faces as she works on the Transcontinental Railroad. Yee handles topics of discrimination and challenge with a perfectly balanced hand. We see the ways that I found myself immersed in the world of Ling, first in China and then America in the 1860s, from the very first page. Betty Yee writes with an accessible, descriptive prose perfect for a YA novel. Readers will find themselves both connecting to the character's common human experiences and marveling at the strength and difficult choices Ling faces as she works on the Transcontinental Railroad. Yee handles topics of discrimination and challenge with a perfectly balanced hand. We see the ways that Chinese workers were treated as "less than" at every turn. We also meet allies and people who push back on this discrimination. This book is perfect for middle grade and young adult readers who wish to truly understand this important time period, the choices facing immigrants, and the individual stories that lend humanity to studying history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Halbur

    A remarkable historical fiction. Loved the suspense right up to the end. Learned to much about the building of the railroad in the western US and how the Chinese were involved in that process. Can’t wait to share with my students!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maya Prasad

    I've always enjoyed stories about girls dressing up as boys to go on adventures, and the stakes couldn't be higher as Tam Ling Fan pretends to be her brother in order to save her father from an unfair prison sentence. She heads to the US to make her fortune, which she plans to use to bribe guards in exchange for her father's freedom. The Transcontinental Railroad work is not only difficult and dangerous, but there is also sabotage afoot as others scheme for their own reasons. This is a gripping a I've always enjoyed stories about girls dressing up as boys to go on adventures, and the stakes couldn't be higher as Tam Ling Fan pretends to be her brother in order to save her father from an unfair prison sentence. She heads to the US to make her fortune, which she plans to use to bribe guards in exchange for her father's freedom. The Transcontinental Railroad work is not only difficult and dangerous, but there is also sabotage afoot as others scheme for their own reasons. This is a gripping and fast-paced read, and I was rooting for brave and fierce Ling Fan all the way. I also really enjoyed this peek into a part of US history that is often erased or minimized. Thanks so much Betty for the ARC!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anita Jari Kharbanda

    First, I would like to thank NetGalley for an advanced copy of Gold Mountain. I absolutely loved reading this historical fiction YA story set in China and California in 1867 when the Transcontinental Railroad was being built. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Gold Mountain did not disappoint. The author weaves important and interesting historical context into a compelling story that I couldn’t put down. What I loved most was the main characters innate goodness, which didn’t fade even as First, I would like to thank NetGalley for an advanced copy of Gold Mountain. I absolutely loved reading this historical fiction YA story set in China and California in 1867 when the Transcontinental Railroad was being built. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Gold Mountain did not disappoint. The author weaves important and interesting historical context into a compelling story that I couldn’t put down. What I loved most was the main characters innate goodness, which didn’t fade even as the challenges she faced multiplied. I found myself routing for her with each page turn. The plot synopsis from NetGalley is below: In 1867 Fifteen-year-old Tam Ling Fan disguises herself as her twin brother, journeys from her village in China to California, and works as a laborer on the Transcontinental Railroad—where she faces danger on multiple fronts—to earn the money her family desperately needs. The plot was gripping and kept me hooked. I stayed on edge with these questions running through my mind: Would she live or die? Would she return to her home with the money she needed for her family? Would the inhuman treatment she endured on the transcontinental railroad break her? The writing was just what a YA should be. I felt close to the main character, as though I was sitting right next to her. The writing style was active and engaging. The characters were relatable and fleshed out. Not one of them was one dimensional and all were multi-faceted and fleshed out. Even for the villains there were motivations and struggles behind them ‘going bad’. I really enjoyed this novel, and recommend you buy it when released in April 2022!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Berg

    I was instantly immersed every time I opened this book. Betty Yee’s descriptions, writing, and details were wonderfully evocative. The story takes place in China and America during the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. There were more than ten thousand Chinese sojourners that worked to complete the railroad, yet little is known about them. In the Author’s Note, Yee says that she wrote the book because she wanted to tell the story of one of these nameless workers. Yee chose I was instantly immersed every time I opened this book. Betty Yee’s descriptions, writing, and details were wonderfully evocative. The story takes place in China and America during the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. There were more than ten thousand Chinese sojourners that worked to complete the railroad, yet little is known about them. In the Author’s Note, Yee says that she wrote the book because she wanted to tell the story of one of these nameless workers. Yee chose the story of a fictional girl, Tam Ling Fan, who disguises herself as her dead brother so she can use his railroad contract to sail to America and make enough money to free her imprisoned father. It is a dangerous quest for a girl who is naively idealistic and loyal to a fault. And there was plenty of life-threatening scenarios and plot twists that kept me turning pages. But it was Tam Ling Fan’s inner conflicts—which she writes as messages for her dead brother and then burns to send them up to him—that were so poignant. Over and over I related to her struggles of reconciling her inner self with her outer one. It’s something we all confront on a daily basis, and I came away feeling as if Yee brought me new insight into it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Tanguay

    Gold Mountain by Betty G. Yee is a riveting tale of survival and a masterful work of historical fiction for young adults. Readers are transported to the mid-19th century amidst the cultural animosity and racism directed towards the Chinese sojourners who helped build the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. Disguised as her deceased older brother, Tam Ling Fan leaves her provincial home in China to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America. She endures the rigors of intense physical la Gold Mountain by Betty G. Yee is a riveting tale of survival and a masterful work of historical fiction for young adults. Readers are transported to the mid-19th century amidst the cultural animosity and racism directed towards the Chinese sojourners who helped build the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. Disguised as her deceased older brother, Tam Ling Fan leaves her provincial home in China to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America. She endures the rigors of intense physical labor, treachery, and deceit as she perseveres to earn enough money and return safely to her family in China. Well-researched and readily accessible, this debut novel will shine a light on an important part of history that doesn't get much in-depth coverage. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophia M. Davis

    Wonderfully written, fast paced story. I feel like the topic of Chinese laborers is not discussed often enough in our present time so it was nice to read a book that sheds light on this topic. Very interesting story, highly recommend. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Glaze

    Betty Yee’s gripping story, set against the backdrop of the buidling of the transcontinental railroad during the 1860s, is absolutely stunning. The story follows fifteen-year-old Tam Ling Fan who, after her twin brother’s death and her father’s imprisonment, disguises herself as her brother in order to journey from China to California. There, still in disguise as a boy, she joins other laborers to lay railroad track through the Sierra Nevada. Up against treacherous conditions and racial hostilit Betty Yee’s gripping story, set against the backdrop of the buidling of the transcontinental railroad during the 1860s, is absolutely stunning. The story follows fifteen-year-old Tam Ling Fan who, after her twin brother’s death and her father’s imprisonment, disguises herself as her brother in order to journey from China to California. There, still in disguise as a boy, she joins other laborers to lay railroad track through the Sierra Nevada. Up against treacherous conditions and racial hostility, Ling Fan fights to get the money she needs to secure her father’s release. I absolutely loved Ling Fan - she is a determined, resilient character who I was instantly rooting for. I was completely immersed in the rich historical setting, and the engrossing plot kept me eagerly turning the pages late into the night. Highly recommend this book, especially for lovers of well-researched historical fiction with beautifully layered heroines you instantly love.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I loved this book!! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Gold Mountain did not disappoint. The plot was really fantastic, and it had me hooked from the beginning. It was full of historical information that I found very interesting. The characters were well fleshed out and relatable. I feel like this is an important book to read. We don’t talk enough about exploitation of the Chinese railroad works. I loved this book and will be purchasing the physical copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Moss

    A solid YA piece of historical fiction- it reminded me a lot of How Much of These Hills is Gold. I love expanding my library with historical fiction pieces that aren’t just about WW2, which is the majority of what YA historical fiction seems to be about. Different time periods, different perspectives, all of these contribute to a more well-rounded library. Yee’s book will definitely be making it to our shelves. Thank you to the publisher for the ARC.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ThatBeMeDiana

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are so many layers in it. After Ling's brother passes away from influenza, she disguises herself as him as she was always raised like a boy. She takes his contract to work in the railroads in America to make money for her family to free her Baba from jail. Ling's one goal is to make money. But as she makes friends along the way her situation becomes complicated. There are layers of racism and injustices in hard labor work that affects Ling's morale. She has I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are so many layers in it. After Ling's brother passes away from influenza, she disguises herself as him as she was always raised like a boy. She takes his contract to work in the railroads in America to make money for her family to free her Baba from jail. Ling's one goal is to make money. But as she makes friends along the way her situation becomes complicated. There are layers of racism and injustices in hard labor work that affects Ling's morale. She has a bit of a villain, selfish arc part way through which I appreciated because it made her reflect a lot on her values and made me root for her more. There is so much history in this story that I was not aware of and was so interested to learn more. Something I wished we got more of was her struggle adapting to the hard labor. She had an existential crisis realizing that she is a woman who has never done hard labor or rough work before compared to her peers. Then when she gets to work, other than some aches she seems to magically fit in.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    This was a really exciting read with a perspective that I don't think I've read before in historical fiction! I knew a lot of the facts about the transcontinental railroad and the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Central Pacific side, but this added a really interesting narrative element and got me thinking more on the individual and day-to-day level rather than the big-picture level. Based on a few things that happened in the first third of the book, I was worried that it was going to be ve This was a really exciting read with a perspective that I don't think I've read before in historical fiction! I knew a lot of the facts about the transcontinental railroad and the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Central Pacific side, but this added a really interesting narrative element and got me thinking more on the individual and day-to-day level rather than the big-picture level. Based on a few things that happened in the first third of the book, I was worried that it was going to be very predictable, and while all of the things I'd predicted at that point came to pass, so did many other things that I didn't see coming. CW: racism, sexism, rape threats made against a minor, deaths (including sibling and past parental deaths), incarcerated parent, injuries, drug use and dealing (opium) I recieved an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fon

    Gold Mountain provides us with a glimpse of the lives of Chinese laborers who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860's through the eyes of Tam Ling Fan. Following her brother's death, Tam Ling Fan disguises herself as her brother and takes his railroad contract to America, marking the beginning of her journey to earn enough money to secure her father's freedom. While the plot of Gold Mountain is slightly predictable, Gold Mountain hit all the right notes for me, being a fast-paced YA Gold Mountain provides us with a glimpse of the lives of Chinese laborers who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860's through the eyes of Tam Ling Fan. Following her brother's death, Tam Ling Fan disguises herself as her brother and takes his railroad contract to America, marking the beginning of her journey to earn enough money to secure her father's freedom. While the plot of Gold Mountain is slightly predictable, Gold Mountain hit all the right notes for me, being a fast-paced YA historical novel with a fierce female protagonist. Don't let the YA label fool you -- I learned so much about the Transcontinental Railroad from Gold Mountain, such as how two railroad companies, the Central Pacific Railroad Company and the Union Pacific Railroad Company, were pitted against each other in the race to finish first. More importantly, I learned about the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on the lives of Chinese laborers and indigenous peoples. I think it's safe to say that Gold Mountain is a must-read YA new release. Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher, Carolrhoda Lab ®, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Renae

    There is a special kind of disappointment when an author has a wonderful idea for a book but is simply not good at writing in a technical sense. Gold Mountain, Betty G. Yee’s young adult historical novel about a Chinese girl working as a “coolie” for the Central Pacific Railroad should have been great. At first blush it promises so much—a story about a “lesser known” demographic in a “lesser known” time period. The potential for excellence screams in 500-point neon font. And at a personal level, There is a special kind of disappointment when an author has a wonderful idea for a book but is simply not good at writing in a technical sense. Gold Mountain, Betty G. Yee’s young adult historical novel about a Chinese girl working as a “coolie” for the Central Pacific Railroad should have been great. At first blush it promises so much—a story about a “lesser known” demographic in a “lesser known” time period. The potential for excellence screams in 500-point neon font. And at a personal level, Gold Mountain is right in my area of interest, as exploring the complex truth behind Manifest Destiny propaganda is one of my particular armchair historian sub-specialties. I read the jacket copy and hoped desperately for a readalike to Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky and/or C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills Is Gold, two excellent “pioneer” books about Chinese immigrants, not to mention two of my favorite books in general. Alas, alack, etc. My hopes were for naught, my expectations were unfulfilled. Within a few chapters, it became imminently clear that no matter how promising her premise, Yee simply does not have the writing chops to tell this story as it deserves to be told. As I continued to read, I was forced to conclude that Gold Mountain is a progressively worsening object lesson in how to utterly neglect the fundamentals of effective fiction writing. Think of the elements that a successful novel needs. Prose that is clear and coherent yet stylized enough to gesture toward the vibes/aesthetic the author wishes to evoke. Fully-developed, three-dimensional characters whose goals and inner processes are understood by readers. Detailed and specific world-building. Realistic conflict that is appropriate to the characters and setting and which does not constantly remind the audience that there’s a puppeteer tugging strings behind the curtain. Convincing dialogue, character growth, the presence of an authorial vision and/or purpose. Y’know, all the stuff they teach you in creative writing programs. In my opinion, Gold Mountain has approximately none of the above-listed elements. This book’s most critical failure is that it isn’t meaningfully grounded in the historical period and culture Yee chose to write in. World-building is necessary for all genres of fiction, but it’s particularly important when the story takes place in “another world.” That may be the world of small, furry-footed travelers unexpectedly tasked with defeating a primeval villain; or it may be the world of an upper-class Han Chinese girl who finds herself pretending to be a boy in order to work as one of the thousands of exploited Chinese workers on the Transcontinental Railroad. Although I fully credit that Yee did a great deal of research prior to writing Ling Fan’s story, the author’s knowledge base is not presented on the page. In her depiction of 18th century China and Chinese-American immigrants, there are no cultural, geographic, or historic touchstones presented. There are generic references to foot binding and the Taiping Rebellion, but even those are surface-level only. Yee does not mention—much less delve into—the ethnic and economic tensions present in Late Qing China which drove so many to perform backbreaking labor across the Pacific. She does not discuss the concepts of family honor and filial piety, ideals that should have been at the forefront of Ling Fan’s motivation throughout the text. In the latter portions of the text, the topics of both the treatment of Native Americans by white colonizers and the impact of the opium trade (not to mention white Europeans’ role in it) are not dealt with thoughtful nuance. Yes, this is a young adult book and not a 1,000 page historical epic, but clearly if Stacey Lee can do it, it can be done. The second glaring issue with Gold Mountain is that Yee does not adequately develop her any of her characters—particularly her protagonist, Ling Fan. The book is written in superficial third-person narration that describes Ling Fan’s actions and her in-the-moment decision making, but doesn’t examine who Ling Fan is as a person or what her strengths, weaknesses, and flaws are. She is a name on the page, but not a fully-realized person. Yee’s lack of depth in characterization is accentuated by the structure of her narrative. The plot of Gold Mountain happens to Ling Fan, and her choices are always a reaction to another character's. Ling Fan has no agency of her own, and, indeed, she appears to wait around for another character to arrive on-scene and do something—as if she’s constantly waiting for a cue from her stage director. And since the reader doesn’t have a strong grasp on Ling Fan’s personality, she ultimately looks foolish, naïve, and weak. Bad guy after bad guy after bad guy takes advantage of her, she never seems to learn to look out for herself, and she never shows an ounce of intuition or forethought. Betty G. Yee clearly wants this to be a book about a girl taking charge of her own life, but she doesn’t appear to comprehend that in order to make that narrative believable, she has to write and present her story in a particular way. The way you frame events matters. I could go on, but in general, Gold Mountain lacks a cohesive conflict and vision. The plot is choppy and awkward, the focus is blurry, and the author’s attempts to “educate” about history are clumsy and underdeveloped. Ling Fan inhabits the book like an afterthought rather than standing out as the star. Yee’s writing is unpolished and stylistically inferior. Writing is hard. It’s skill that can be learned, but it’s also a talent that some people simply do not possess. I don’t know why, but the fact is that Betty G. Yee does not have the chops to pull this book off. I tend to write one-star reviews only when I encounter books whose theoretical framework or message I find to be objectionable, but this is the rare case where the premise is fine, but the execution is so poor that nothing can be redeemed for me. Gold Mountain deserves to be better than it is. 📌 . Blog | Review Database | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

  16. 5 out of 5

    amia

    This book was somewhat short but full of so much action. Ling Fan was a very likable character, and her motives are very reasonable and human. While it was a little bit disappointing that there wasn’t any romance, it’s also a good thing because Ling Fan is an independent woman and didn’t fall in love with any of the men she was surrounded by. The author did a lot of research on the Transcontinental Railroad, even researching how the Native Americans were oppressed by this railroad and created a This book was somewhat short but full of so much action. Ling Fan was a very likable character, and her motives are very reasonable and human. While it was a little bit disappointing that there wasn’t any romance, it’s also a good thing because Ling Fan is an independent woman and didn’t fall in love with any of the men she was surrounded by. The author did a lot of research on the Transcontinental Railroad, even researching how the Native Americans were oppressed by this railroad and created a character to sympathize for them. Ling Fan was a very sympathetic person, often trying to find validity into why the antagonist was doing certain things.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    Ling Fan faces a mountain of obstacles - her brother is dead, her father in prison and she is about to be married off to take care of the family. She decides to run instead pretending to be her brother and travels to America to take her brother's work contract building the railroad. Hiding the fact that she is a woman she makes a few friends but feels like she can't trust many people there. Soon it becomes clear that only by taking the dangerous jobs will she make enough to free her father. When Ling Fan faces a mountain of obstacles - her brother is dead, her father in prison and she is about to be married off to take care of the family. She decides to run instead pretending to be her brother and travels to America to take her brother's work contract building the railroad. Hiding the fact that she is a woman she makes a few friends but feels like she can't trust many people there. Soon it becomes clear that only by taking the dangerous jobs will she make enough to free her father. When accidents begin to happen and it is clear that the railroad company isn't afraid to let a few Chinamen die to finish first in the rail race, Ling Fan takes action. Terrific historical fiction that will appeal to older middle school readers, young adults and adults alike. This is yet another example of how immigrants were treated unfairly yet contributed greatly to this country. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    This was a solid historical fiction YA book. Some things are a little too convenient for our protagonist, the story ties up every thread a little too nicely, but I was transported during the action and enjoy the historical context and obvious research that went into this book. I grew up in California so my knowledge of this era and these events is probably better than the average reader, but I still learned a lot and appreciated the attempt at including the struggles of Indigenous people during This was a solid historical fiction YA book. Some things are a little too convenient for our protagonist, the story ties up every thread a little too nicely, but I was transported during the action and enjoy the historical context and obvious research that went into this book. I grew up in California so my knowledge of this era and these events is probably better than the average reader, but I still learned a lot and appreciated the attempt at including the struggles of Indigenous people during this time of "progress." I would certainly recommend this for any precocious young reader who loves historical fiction; it's a wonderful introduction to a lot of topics, and might ignite some further learning.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Rosenberg

    This gripping YA Historical Fiction debut from Betty G. Yee will keep you turning pages. Tam Ling Fan takes on her dead brother's identity as well as his contract for work on the Transcontinental Railroad in Sierra Nevada. Her mission is to raise the money to free her dissident father from prison back home in Guangzhou. Yee deals with complex issues like the meaning of breaking gender norms in an era where foot binding was still de rigueur for the upper classes. The nuances of racism play a role a This gripping YA Historical Fiction debut from Betty G. Yee will keep you turning pages. Tam Ling Fan takes on her dead brother's identity as well as his contract for work on the Transcontinental Railroad in Sierra Nevada. Her mission is to raise the money to free her dissident father from prison back home in Guangzhou. Yee deals with complex issues like the meaning of breaking gender norms in an era where foot binding was still de rigueur for the upper classes. The nuances of racism play a role as well. In Sierra Nevada, Chinese immigrant workers are brutally harassed by the whites and put in grave danger, blasting through mountains which shade the home territories of native tribes who have been driven from their homes. Yee's fluid language and powerful pacing along with her attention to historic detail drive this story of adventure and resilience. Tam Ling Fan is a memorable heroine with valor and chutzpah in droves. Highly recommended!

  20. 5 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    I hope all the historical fiction fans will rush to read this book! It's about the Gold Rush, but a part of the story you might not have heard. Let's just say it's an explosive story. I loved Ling Fan! ❤ Her strength of spirit and character reminds me of She Who Became the Sun (but probably because I read it recently). She reminds me of what I love about the Mulan story (Disney or otherwise). Ling Fan is the best type of main character - smart, brave, strong - who saves herself! No knight in shi I hope all the historical fiction fans will rush to read this book! It's about the Gold Rush, but a part of the story you might not have heard. Let's just say it's an explosive story. I loved Ling Fan! ❤ Her strength of spirit and character reminds me of She Who Became the Sun (but probably because I read it recently). She reminds me of what I love about the Mulan story (Disney or otherwise). Ling Fan is the best type of main character - smart, brave, strong - who saves herself! No knight in shining armor required, thank you! "Out here on the Gold Mountain you have to clean up your own mess." (232)

  21. 4 out of 5

    KarenK2

    I received this from Netgalley.com. "Tam Ling Fan assumes disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s contract to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America." An okay read which was interesting only for the history it contains. The characters were rather single sided and I didn't connect with them. 2.25☆ I received this from Netgalley.com. "Tam Ling Fan assumes disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s contract to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America." An okay read which was interesting only for the history it contains. The characters were rather single sided and I didn't connect with them. 2.25☆

  22. 5 out of 5

    Theresea

    I loved how immersive this book was, and the writing was so beautiful. Every day I looked forward to dipping into the story and following these characters' lives. There were quite a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming toward the end of the book, which I loved. It was a great journey to a satisfying ending. I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next! I loved how immersive this book was, and the writing was so beautiful. Every day I looked forward to dipping into the story and following these characters' lives. There were quite a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming toward the end of the book, which I loved. It was a great journey to a satisfying ending. I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Ling's story, heartbreaking and hopeful, should feel familiar to the reader as it reads a bit like the story of Mulan, and I have to assume that the author was inspired by the Ballad of Mulan and it's message of feminine strength and familial responsibility. I very much appreciate the parallels between Ling's choice to go off to Gold Mountain and Mulan's decision that lead her to Black Mountain, both fighting against stereotypical misogyny and gender roles in extreme circumstances in order to sa Ling's story, heartbreaking and hopeful, should feel familiar to the reader as it reads a bit like the story of Mulan, and I have to assume that the author was inspired by the Ballad of Mulan and it's message of feminine strength and familial responsibility. I very much appreciate the parallels between Ling's choice to go off to Gold Mountain and Mulan's decision that lead her to Black Mountain, both fighting against stereotypical misogyny and gender roles in extreme circumstances in order to save their respective fathers. I didn't expect this to be a retelling of any sort, rather than a historical fiction, but the reinterpretation of the folk story was a really clever and fresh way to approach the terrible exploitation of Chinese railroad workers in the 1800s, especially in a YA application.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Macy Davis

    I've read my fair share of transcontinental railroad books and this one definitely rises to the top in terms of the perspective that it shares and the writing. If you're interested in a counter-narrative to the American history you learned or read about as a kid, I would recommend this one! I've read my fair share of transcontinental railroad books and this one definitely rises to the top in terms of the perspective that it shares and the writing. If you're interested in a counter-narrative to the American history you learned or read about as a kid, I would recommend this one!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen Gareis

    This felt like the best History Channel mini docu-drama ever and reminded me of another one of my favorite books "The Night Tiger". Our hero/heroine had a Mulan feel to her, the desire to save her father from prison and preserve the family honor chief among her driving influences. But we also get that view into Chinese society and family structure, the persistent gender roles, the arranged marriages, the binding of feet as a statement of beauty and even privilege; compared to the early history o This felt like the best History Channel mini docu-drama ever and reminded me of another one of my favorite books "The Night Tiger". Our hero/heroine had a Mulan feel to her, the desire to save her father from prison and preserve the family honor chief among her driving influences. But we also get that view into Chinese society and family structure, the persistent gender roles, the arranged marriages, the binding of feet as a statement of beauty and even privilege; compared to the early history of America where the only thing that drives men is money and woe to any who get in their way. Its an important story and puts faces to the people who achieved so much while suffering just as much to feed their families. This is the kind of book that makes you want to dive into the actual history and learn even more. I only wish the art department had lived up to the task because this cover is just sad for such an amazing story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    Betty Yee's MG historical fiction, Gold Mountain (Carolrhoda Lab 2022), is a delight. 1800s China is rough and corrupt with the rule of law more a dream than reality. Tam Ling Fan's twin brother received a lucrative contract to build America's transcontinental railroad. When he dies, Ling Fan assumes his identify so she can earn the money needed to free her father from prison for a crime he didn't commit. Her father raised her to be freer than most other women--without foot binding, educated and Betty Yee's MG historical fiction, Gold Mountain (Carolrhoda Lab 2022), is a delight. 1800s China is rough and corrupt with the rule of law more a dream than reality. Tam Ling Fan's twin brother received a lucrative contract to build America's transcontinental railroad. When he dies, Ling Fan assumes his identify so she can earn the money needed to free her father from prison for a crime he didn't commit. Her father raised her to be freer than most other women--without foot binding, educated and able to speak English--so she manages to carry of the trickery. When she arrives in California, she finds the life of a railroad worker is demanding and dirty with long hours and little rest. She is afraid to make friends for fear they will uncover her deceit so she keeps to herself, just working hard and saving her money. The heart of the story is as much how she stops at nothing to earn the money necessary to free her father as it is about how that changes her inside and out. She meets Americans, a culture she'd never before been exposed to, gets caught amidst the opium trade among the Chinese workers, and along the way, must decide how much to compromise her morals for the worthy goal of freeing her father. I applauded her energy, exulted in her cleverness, but hoped the hunt for money wouldn’t ruin her deepest self. To find out if that happens, you'll have to read the book! This is well suited to expose students to a time in history most know little about. Thank you to the author and her publisher for the complimentary read. --Though the book was complimentary, the opinions are my own and share my true attitudes.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book was a fast and enjoyable read! It had a lot of great elements, like a Mulan-esque beginning where the main character disguises herself as a boy to sail to America to work on the transcontinental railroad in her brother's place. It was an interesting time period in history to read about, from a perspective that not a lot of books focus on. There was also a lot of nuance in each of the c Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book was a fast and enjoyable read! It had a lot of great elements, like a Mulan-esque beginning where the main character disguises herself as a boy to sail to America to work on the transcontinental railroad in her brother's place. It was an interesting time period in history to read about, from a perspective that not a lot of books focus on. There was also a lot of nuance in each of the characters, and the story was definitely not one-dimensional; it mentioned issues such as the railroad building on native land and massacring villages, the opium trade, etc. Overall, quite an enjoyable read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I enjoyed the story of the transcontinental railroad told from a chinese workers point of view. And that there was no romance. And the multifaceted characters.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    always love a good historical fiction novel

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    “Pearly gray light filtered through the lattice window, revealing her writing table, her chair, and her chest of clothes in the corner. The light made everything look as though she was seeing it underwater. Ling Fan felt like she was underwater too.” (5) Overall, I thought this was a solid read. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t dislike it either. In fact, I was pretty impressed because I think Yee managed to make a story about constructing the Transcontinental Railroad more interesting than I tho “Pearly gray light filtered through the lattice window, revealing her writing table, her chair, and her chest of clothes in the corner. The light made everything look as though she was seeing it underwater. Ling Fan felt like she was underwater too.” (5) Overall, I thought this was a solid read. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t dislike it either. In fact, I was pretty impressed because I think Yee managed to make a story about constructing the Transcontinental Railroad more interesting than I thought it would be! She did a really great job with pacing, in my opinion, and I enjoyed how the story flows smoothly from one event to another, one plot twist to another, keeping me an engaged reader instead of boring me with continuous descriptions of nothing but the monotony of railroad labor (which was sorta what I expected going into the book). I also respect the amount of time and effort it must’ve taken her to research all the historical aspects that went into this book, and I loved the glimpse that her author’s note provides into her process (though that probably means nothing, coming from me, because I generally love reading author’s notes, haha). Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of Ling Fan and found her to be a pretty annoying protagonist early on. She’s tenacious, I’ll give her that, but I constantly felt like she would’ve benefitted from exercising a little more tact and guile rather than blundering headfirst into situations like a drunken ox. In fact, she reminded me of a lot of Disney’s Mulan (1998), and I wonder if that was intentional, considering that Ling Fan’s story is very much a railroad-era variation of the classic Mulan story. Recognizing that Gold Mountain falls into the vein of Mulan, I probably shouldn’t have questioned Ling Fan’s motivation, but that was actually one of the first things that stuck out to me. Her father seemed like a good man, I supposed (based on the very little we learned about him), and didn’t deserve to die in prison, but I didn’t quite get the vehemence of Ling Fan’s love for him. Besides the fact that she seems to be stubborn, defiant, and reckless by nature, what exactly made her love him so much that she was willing to risk her life for his? I kept hoping the book would expand a bit more on Ling Fan’s filial piety toward her father, but I don’t think I ever got the substance I was seeking. But maybe I’m the only reader who had a bone to pick with her motivation, haha. I also found myself frustrated by how consistently dense Ling Fan was. She acted really stupid at so many points in the book that I became increasingly more irritated with her and wanted to scream, grab her by the shoulders, and shake some sense into her. To be fair, she’s just a teen and some of her behavior is realistic and/or attributable to adolescent naivety and inexperience, but other times, I felt like she was deliberately rendered idiotic in order to maintain/advance the plot. The most glaring example is (view spoiler)[ literally everything that happened in relation to Wong Wei. From the moment Wong Wei was introduced, I instantly knew he was a snake, and I’m willing to bet every other reader picked up on that too. If not from his first appearance, then certainly much faster than Ling Fan. Every part of my body was screaming with red flags, and I kept mentally shouting at Ling Fan, “Abort abort abort, throw this man overboard, no don’t get him onto the boat to America with you, nO don’t save him from the tunnel collapse, NO DON’T DELIVER HIS SHADY PACKAGES FOR HIM WTF” but of course, Ling Fan never listened. She didn’t listen to Tin Dan either when he warned her in the story! I guess part of that was because she somehow saw some of her brother in Wong Wei and because she was characterized as someone willing to give others a second (and third and fourth and fifth…) chance, but I felt like it was less about Ling Fan’s actual “personality” and more about the fact that there would literally be no story and half the events of the plot wouldn’t have happened at all if Wong Wei was removed from the picture. So in essence, Ling Fan had to be an idiot for the sake of the plot. But I hated that. I wish Yee had found some other way to manufacture drama that didn’t rely on Ling Fan consistently being a gullible idiot. The story would have been so, so much better if Ling Fan had been whip-smart but Wong Wei was equally devious and still managed to torment her; then the book would’ve played out like a fun game of cat-and-mouse and a battle of the slyest wits. But no. Ling Fan was completely blind or willingly chose to overlook Wong Wei’s glaringly-obvious insidious nature until she literally couldn’t afford to look away anymore because he had her under his thumb. Speaking of which… I didn’t really mind Ling Fan’s journal entries to her brother in the beginning of the book, as weird as they were, but by the time I was midway through, I couldn’t stand them because I found it so unnecessary for Yee to repeatedly narrate her thoughts like that. For example, Chapter 12 ends with, “I will do whatever it takes to get that bonus money!” We, the readers, already know Ling Fan is willing to do whatever it takes to earn that money—the text itself makes that abundantly clear—so I felt like the notes to her brother became an irritating way for Yee to directly tell us readers what was already shown, like “in case you missed it, let me spell it out very bluntly for you!!!” It was so redundant and annoying, and I wished Yee had more faith in her readers. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, given how painfully obvious she made it that Wong Wei couldn’t be trusted. I really can’t tell whether she lacked so much faith in her audience’s ability to pick up on plot hints and thereby layered her “foreshadowing” on so thick that it became “plot reveal” and not foreshadowing at all because she thought we wouldn’t be able to figure out the “plot twists” otherwise, or if she was fully aware of how painfully obvious she was being and never intended to maintain an air of mystery or suspense because she was going for dramatic irony instead. Either way, I hated her execution of the “foreshadowing” and “plot twists,” because it was not fun for me at all to know on page 42 what would happen on page 186. What fun is it to watch Ling Fan barrelling predictably toward her fate and knowing she’ll do nothing to stop it because she’s just way too dumb to outsmart her opponent? That’s not my idea of a good time, anyway. I much rather would have preferred to be shocked out of my wits when Wong Wei revealed he was a snake and planned to blackmail Ling Fan into doing his dirty work in exchange for keeping her identity as a woman a secret. Instead, that “plot twist” was obvious from miles away, and I merely muttered to myself, “What did you think was going to happen if you kept writing letters to your brother without burning them, you idiot?” The one plot twist that did catch me off-guard, however, was the final bit involving Jonathan O’Brien. Not in the sense that I didn’t see it coming at all, since, keeping true to the rest of the book, Yee drops such obvious hints that she completely spoils the plot twist about 20 pages before the actual event. But I was surprised in the sense that I didn’t expect his character development to go in that direction, for him to be revealed as another one of the book’s “big bads.” I liked Jonathan and Thomas so much that I didn’t want to believe what Yee was implying even after she dropped such obvious hints (“surely there’s some other explanation for his behavior,” I tried to convince myself), and I was disappointed when she followed through and the plot twist was exactly what I had hoped it wouldn’t be. Ultimately, I understand his anger about the railroad construction and how it ruined the lives of the Native Americans, but I don’t see how killing innocent people is any better. Not to mention Thomas literally took a slab of wood to his stomach and almost bled to death… all because Jonathan was willing to kill his nephew and countless of innocent others if it meant serving “the greater good” and avenging his wife. I don’t know what I would’ve done in Ling Fan’s situation. I sympathize with Jonathan and his grief, and I wouldn’t be opposed to his mission of halting the completion of the railroad, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be able to just stand by and watch him inadvertently kill people as a result of their labor on the tracks, not to mention my ability to save my family and return home would be dependent on the wages earned from the railroad labor/completion… it’s a moral quagmire (hide spoiler)] . But as infuriating as it is, at the same time, I love that this book has so many morally grey characters and situations. It’s one of my favorite aspects and in fact, what makes the book interesting and redeems some of its flaws, in my opinion. (view spoiler)[Because as much as I hated Wong Wei and actively rooted for his death (as monstrous as that makes me sound, lmao), I also couldn’t fully detest him because of his “sob story.” Initially, I wasn’t quite sure if he just made up the sob story about Mei to gain Ling Fan’s sympathy and make it easier for him to manipulate her, but as the book went on and he clung to his story, I became more willing to believe he really did have a fiancee waiting for him back home. Then I felt conflicted because I’m an absolute sucker for star-crossed lovers and I wanted to be able to root for him to earn his fortune, return home to China, and win the approval of Mei’s father so he could finally get permission to marry her, but I couldn’t, because his methods of earning money are underhanded, unethical, and stained in blood. Doing it “in name of love” doesn’t change the fact that he was willing to kill and sabotage others, including Ling Fan, in order to achieve his goal. Just like Jonathan O’Brien’s pursuit of vengeance—I sympathize with his tragic backstory (or his “villain origin story,” if you will), but how much blood needs to be spilled before anyone is satisfied? Spilling more blood doesn’t right the wrongs of the past. Ling Fan, too, became more and more morally grey as the book went on. Initially it was easy for me to root for her—she’s the protagonist, after all—but once she started engaging in more and more nefarious behaviors, like deliberately sabotaging the railroad to earn more money, I couldn’t see how she was any different from Wong Wei or Jonathan O’Brien. I couldn’t fully hate her because I know her actions are realistic and it’s possible I’d do the exact same thing if I were in a situation as desperate as hers, but I lost all respect for her by the end of the book. I wanted her to do the moral and honorable thing instead of succumbing to the allure of money and vengeance, but she turned out to be a coward. As a character, I find her so unlikeable, but as a creative product of Yee’s, I like and respect that Yee chose to make Ling Fan morally dubious instead of a squeaky-clean hero (hide spoiler)] . Again, it ultimately makes the book more interesting on a narrative level. Given the moral dubiousness of the cast, I had a bit of hope for (view spoiler)[an ambiguous or less-than-happy ending, but I also wasn’t surprised when the ending was happy and “perfectly wrapped up,” though I was disappointed. I feel like it’s not realistic that Ling Fan’s father was still alive after the length of time she was away from home, especially given how he was portrayed as so gaunt and weak when Ling Fan and her Aunt Fei visited him in prison at the beginning of the book. I didn’t really expect Yee to kill him off, since the entire book was leading up to the expectation that Ling Fan would triumph and free her father from prison, but it certainly would’ve been more interesting if the ending had been her returning home only to find that her efforts were all for nothing because her father had already died. Honestly, it would make more sense if he was dead, given how much tragedy occurs throughout the rest of the book. But of course, Ling Fan has “plot armor” as the protagonist and was always destined for her “happy ending.” I know it would’ve been cruel for her to return home to find her father dead after the events of the whole book, but I personally would’ve found that ending more interesting and realistic. Plus, I’m not really sure there’s much left for Ling Fan in China, anyway. Yee deliberately ends the story at the moment of father-daughter reunion, because after that, then what? What can Ling Fan’s future look like when “her hands are ruined” and her body has been hardened by “man’s work”? Will she still have to marry that repulsive Young Bao? Plus, China doesn’t exactly get any less war-torn over the next century… with her fiery attitude and defiance toward societal norms, Ling Fan might actually thrive better in America, where she’d at least get to forge her own path. Normally I’m pretty opposed to the whole “white savior” trope, but I also could’ve sworn that Yee was dropping crumbs for a Thomas x Ling Fan romance… (No? Just me???) The fact that Ling Fan described herself as curious about Westerners, Thomas was around her age, and Thomas seemed especially friendly toward her made me wonder if she was going to end up marrying him instead of returning to China… but I guess not. Given the time period and gender expectations, if Ling Fan had to marry someone at all, my pick is on Thomas over Young Bao… but that’s probably why Yee ended the book where she did, haha. The moment of father-daughter reunion is the perfect, neat, “happy ending”—everything that comes after that is not-so-happy and messy enough to warrant another book, haha. (hide spoiler)]

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