- LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's
- American Fiction, 2017
- Pen America Literary Award Winner
The Leavers is a timely novel that deals with immigration, deportation and the need for familial and cultural identification. It portrays the difficulties faced when children are born as American citizens, but their parents are not. The story unfolds using alternating perspectives between the protagonist, a Chinese American, and his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, as they try to resolve the conflict experienced when she is deported and he is adopted by a Caucasian family at the age of eleven.
The overall story is important, especially considering today’s political climate. Yet its telling is a bit underwhelming. It reads like a dry journalistic piece lacking passion and creativity. In addition, Ko focuses on the protagonist’s featureless attempt at a musical career in excess. She uses this narrative to reveal the process of a struggling youth trying to self-actualize, yet it falls flat and feels like an overplayed muse.
Ko’s writing is practiced and competent; she is not an unskilled author. However, her novel lacks depth. I never felt invested; I plowed through the book hoping for something more that it never delivered. Leavers is not a bad novel, poorly written without plot or character development, it simply lacks impact.