The Bubble Wrap Boy: 01/23/17
The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle is about Charlie Han and his over protective parents. He's a British-Chinese kid and his parents run a Chinese takeaway place. His mother is over protective to the max and he wants desperately to do anything to get out from under that protection.
Charlie one a particularly bad day sees something he's never seen before, someone flying along the street and over things on a skateboard. So of course he has to learn how to skateboard, going against his parents' will and going head to head with the bullies at school.
Here's where the book essentially lost me and I began to focus more on the huge assumptions and stereotypes holding this plot together.
First there's Charlie. He's short. He's Chinese. He lives in a Chinese takeaway. He has over protective parents. There is nothing about these attributes that are explained. They are just given and are therefore playing on stereotypes.
Looking at a chart of average heights of men by country (2012 data), Chinese men are on average only two inches shorter than English men. Some of that is genetics. Some of it is environmental. All in all it's a wash.
Looking at Chinese in Britain and BBC (British Born Chinese, not the network of the same name), at a census done in the 2000s, approximately a quarter of all Chinese in the UK work in or own a takeaway. So the chances of Charlie being both short and living in a takeaway are slim at best.
Then there is skateboarding. Skateboarding is not a new thing. In one form or another they're about a hundred years old, though in its modern recognizable form, dates to the 1960s. Granted, the modern skateboarding scene developed in my home state, that was more than fifty years ago and it's since spread all over. There is a long standing, vibrant skateboarding culture. It's not a new thing.
What the author is missing is that Charlie first and foremost is British. His parents might be immigrants but he isn't. He should be British. He should be completely immersed in the culture of his nation, his country, his city, as well as his parents' culture.
It's not that skateboarding can't be a release for Charlie. It's that it should have been presented in a more believable fashion. Why not have Charlie be completely obsessed with skateboarding before deciding to start it? Why not have the challenge being keeping it secret until he's given a chance to show off his skills in a public fashion?