Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
So Totally Emily Ebers
One summer, three kids, three separate points of view in three books...
"June 7 I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things. My disposition probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am technically a genius. Unfortunately, this label seems to precede me wherever I go." (page 1)
With that opening paragraph, the reader is plunged into the strange and quirky world of Millicent Min, a Chinese-American eleven year old genius who will complete high school, attend college and wants a grand future of solving society's ills. Being a genius caused her to be unable to relate to kids her own age and thus, she was closed off from making friends, although she has tried multiple times, such as bringing Moon Pies to get people to like her which lasted for five minutes, or befriending a college student who took advantage of her and only asked her to do homework for her. The only friend that Millicent has is her grandmother, and possibly her grandfather who recently passed away. Her parents are an enigma to her, and Millicent also endures trying to connect with her father and to move beyond the selfishness into someone capable caring for other people such as Emily and her parents.
Millicent is more worried about being correct rather than how it will affect another person, such as the time she mentioned when she corrected the supervisor in front of everyone. She also tends to be awkward in social situations and in beginning isn't tolerant of human quirks. "Okay, so maybe I had imagined I would have endless discussions on politics and poetry with my peers, culminating in lively arguments and an exchange of footnotes. It is with dismay I've learned that the others in my class are more eager to talk about their weekend plans than Wordsworth's poems." (18)
In addition to having a college class, Millicent's mother signed her up for volleyball lessons and later on Millicent is forced to tutor her enemy, Stanford Wong. Despite the woes of volleyball and tutoring Stanford, Millicent makes her first true friend, Emily Ebers. Emily Ebers is incredibly different from Millicent. While Millicent enjoys intellectual pursuits, Emily is more into fashion and makeup. Remembering her past experience with Deborah, and thinking that its her IQ that's preventing her from having friends rather than her awkwardness in social situations, Millicent hides two things: one that she is a genius, another that she is the one tutoring Stanford, causing Emily to think she's the one struggling with English. (Stanford helps her out.)
The author, Lisa Yee, writes very cleverly in first person, causing me to see Millicent's point of view, thus the change Millicent undergoes through tends to be difficult to locate. It is also cool that Millicent doesn't have a love interest, because her growth lies somewhere else and for a time being she needs to achieve it. The experiences that she goes through and other areas I will leave unsaid as to give a tantalizing morsel to enjoy, an anticipation of the feast.
"June 7, 1:40 PM. Today's the last day of school, the only school day that I look forward to. I grab my basketball and head to Mr. Glick's class. Once I make it through that I'm free for the entire summer. Goodbye, school- hello, camp!!!" (1)
My original purpose in writing the article is to discuss how unusual Stanford Wong is. I honestly don't mean like an alien, but among the media that tends to belittle and stereotype Asian men, Stanford Wong definitely stands out. The common stereotype of Asian men in American media is that of a silent sexless warrior who feels less than human, or else someone who happens to be a stereotype of a geek without falling in love with a girl. In other words, the audience won't be able to connect to such portrayals, and these images will wreak havoc on self esteem of Asian men.
However, Stanford Wong defies the stereotypes of an Asian man; he is popular, doesn't speak with an accent at all, he's also a talented basketball player, and perhaps more than half of the book is his budding crush towards Emily Ebers. "6: 32 PM. Emily, Emily Ebers. Emily, Emily, Emily. Emily Ebers. Emily. It's the most beautiful name I've ever heard. Emily. Emily. Emily. Just thinking it makes my stomach do flips." (151)
Stanford is also very imaginative and a creative thinker. "I wish I were invisible right now. Then there would be zero chance of getting caught. I know. I'll be like James Bond, no one ever catches him. I'll just pretend I'm a SPY. I will sneak to and from summer school and no one will ever suspect a thing. Call me Stanford Spy. Or Stealth Spy. No, wait, better idea: I will be known as SSSSpy for Super Stealth Stanford Spy." (27) Stanford as well enjoys secretly knitting in times of stress and eating Chinese food his grandmother Yin Yin prepares, as well as listening to the tales of his grandmother.
Stanford also has father issues. While Millicent's father wants to reach out and connect to her, Stanford's father is too busy to spend time with him and Stanford desires to connect to him. In his family, Stanford isn't as intelligent as his sister or father and often feels resentment or anger towards that fact. When he meets Emily by accident, he pretends that he's the one tutoring Millicent instead of the other way around, wanting for Emily to admire and like him.
Stanford's growth does relate to him learning that reading books isn't as terrible as he thought it would be, and also a few love lessons and friendship lessons along the way.
"June 7. Dear Dad, Today was the last day of school and the second saddest day of my entire life. A.J. and Nicole were crying and crying, and I was crying, and then Mrs. Buono started crying. This freaked everyone out because teachers aren't supposed to cry. My whole class had made me a humongous card, and everyone wrote nice things, even Evan. When I finished reading it, I began bawling and Nicole started wheezing so badly that Mrs. Buono was convinced she was having another asthma attack. A.J. and I offered to take Nicole to the nurse." (1)
In Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, Emily plays a huge role in both of their lives, such as helping Millicent learn important life lessons, and helping Stanford realize his own potential when it comes to learning and also helping him learn a very important lesson when it comes to intelligence. While she teaches both of them lessons, she also learns lessons as well when it comes to distinguishing real friends vs. false friends and of inner beauty vs outer beauty.
Emily also has problems relating to parents, although unlike Millicent and Stanford's problems dealing with fathers, her parent problem is a mother. Her mother recently divorced and the two left New Jersey to get to California. Emily adores and heavily admires her father who was in a famous group and hopes to have a comeback. She resents her mother heavily. (Ironically is that Emily loves Millicent's mother, while Millicent loves Emily's mother.) Emily also has problems relating to her outer appearance and spending problems. (She buys presents with a credit card and often pretends they are from her father.)
Her personality is best described as bubbly, emotional, friendly and giving. She also loves collecting "souvenirs" of times when she spent time with Stanford, also loves clothes and makeup and can identify brands very well. Her outer appearance is dark blond hair, and she's slightly overweight. Despite her trying not to let it get to her, I think it often does. "As we ate, Stanford told me how his free throw won the league championship. I barely heard him, because I was too busy staring at his eyes, and his mouth, and his nose and his ears, and his hair. Sigh. He's so totally hot. I wonder if a smart jock like Stanford Wong could really fall for a slightly-heavy-blond-brown-haired-poor-volleyball-playing girl like me? Maybe he's just nice to everyone." (136) Even though she sounds kind of like an airhead, she's not. Its a curiously written book because I couldn't really decide whether or not the cheeriness is genuine or is she using it to try to hold on to her world?
Although it took me several reads, the books are well worth reading, especially the changes that the three kids go through. I hardly noticed the growth because it seemed natural.