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Star Star Star Star Star
I Want Candy
by Kim Wong Keltner
Young Adult - General
288 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2009

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Book Review
Reviewed by for Readers' Favorite

Candace lives above a Chinese restaurant that her parents run. They work a lot. They work so much that they ignore their daughter. Candace is expected to work, also. She refers to herself as Eggroll Girl. She dreams of an escape to anywhere else. She hoards money just for that.

She has a friend named Ruby. Ruby is a smart-mouthed, boy-crazy, rude, spoiled brat who tries to belittle Candace at every possible time. Candace falls prey to her criticism.

Candace does find a time for escape; however, she begins to long for her home, regardless of how cold and detached her parents act.

Through the summer before her Freshman year, Candace fights to find herself, maintain her virginity, and understand the relationship between her and her parents. Will Candace find herself or will she lose herself?

“I Want Candy” is hilariously blunt. It is not for the faint of heart. From periods to sex, Candace sees everything through virgin eyes. This is a great read. It will make you laugh, cry, and thankful that you are not a teenager.


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Sylvia Birdsworth
A richly detailed story of a young girl standing on the -- what's the term? Precipice -- of life? The curb, about to step into traffic? Ai-yi-yi! I love this book!!!
Whatever -- I'm not the writer here -- Keltner is, and I'm damn glad of it! I've loved all her books -- I've read parts of The Dim Sum of It All aloud to friends on more than one occasion, and laughed out loud on an airplane while reading Buddha Baby. The people behind me must have thought I was laughing at the stupid movie. I think it had Jessica Simpson in it, which is NO laughing matter -- and had to have this one the minute I saw the yummy cover.

I think our Miss Keltner is one of the best new fiction writers around. She had a smart and sassy voice, and uses it here to dig deep into some scary stuff. She has a real gift for storytelling and such a great voice.
It's the kind of writing you have to be born knowing how to do; there's no way to fake a seamless style like Keltner's.

One complaint: The cover should have been a Scratch 'n Lick cover.


Lucille Haul
I absolutely enjoyed every bit of this book and found myself unable to put it down. I highly recommend it!!! It is an exciting, thoughtfully written book that is something of a revelation, really, watching this girl - woman face emotional, cross - cultural and physical aversaries and come out victorious, all between eighth and ninth grade! I thought the book was brilliant and realistic in every way, and quite the female empowerment story of sorts, as the city of San Francisco comes alive from Keltners descriptive prose. This book will step on the shadows of those who lack self-awareness, or awareness of some of the more primitive forces that lurk just below the surface of our so-called civilized way of life. In this way it bravely shines a light on the teenage experience that many have but are unable to articulate. This is a book about redemption and transcending one's origins, only to be returned to them touched by a wisdom that only comes from testing one's mettle, if only by accidental circumstance. Candace is alive and very real and elicits poignant emotion and empathy from this reader. You will be rooting for her too, as she wins her way into your heart. I for one felt vindicated by this book and validated by Candace's journey. Hooray for Kim Wong Keltner! I can't wait for the movie!


mary Kole
Too many books these days feature dull, scared, shy and awkward characters that lie flat on the page, bemoaning their woe-is-me existences. On the other end of the spectrum, teens in books are fluffy poodles (ahem, the Clique) with no guts or sense of humor.

That's not who Kim Wong Keltner writes for and not who she writes in her books. "I Want Candy" is not for the faint of heart or humorless. This is a character with wit, passion, delusions and an achingly real, achingly terrified soul. Instead of painting lifeless and pathetic characters, Kim Wong Keltner has made "I Want Candy" a novel of blood, tears, sweat, guts and, yeah, as you've probably heard... pinky rat juice.

This fiction is fresh, raw, honest and HILARIOUS. Not recommended for those who hate to laugh and definitely not for people who can't appreciate the messy beating heart inside the vulnerable, brutal and painfully relatable character of Candace Ong. Read this if you want a fresh and exciting take on adolescence where life, death and everything in between are pushed to their exciting breaking points by one of the most refreshing voices I've read in a long while.


J Mink
A big fan of The Dim Sum of All Things and Buddha Baby, I was surprised by Kim Wong Keltner's third novel. Like the previous two books, I Want Candy has a singular and (to this former Catholic school-attending, fat-acting adolescent, at any rate) pitch-perfect narrative voice; it involved me deeply in the life and welfare of a character whom I found engrossing and real, if not necessarily lovable or even likeable at times. And as with the previous two, I found myself smiling in recognition at the evocations of San Francisco -- minutely observed and not always postcard pretty or nostalgic -- and laughing out loud in public more than once while reading it, which earned me some bemused looks from fellow bus passengers.

But I Want Candy is also more intense, darker, almost Gothic in places ... not what I expected in a book about a 14 year-old. After a bit of an expectation readjustment on my part, I found myself compelled to keep reading both by Candace's story and by Wong Keltner's prose. (By the way, if you ever have a chance to hear Wong Keltner read from her work, take it -- she is seriously entertaining.)

While it was written for adults, I think this would be a good novel for a teenager -- at a certain level of maturity, to be sure -- to read. My own intellectually precocious yet socially awkward 14 year-old self would have been relieved to meet a like-minded soul in Candace and would have avidly followed her experiences -- the near-surreal and the painfully familiar -- grateful that my fictional coeval was living through them so that I didn't have to. I might have even learned a few home truths.


Kathleen P. Rowland
The year is 1983, and fourteen-year-old Candace Ong misses the only adult in her family who understood her, deceased Aunt Melaura. Before her adoring but suicidal aunt jumped off the bridge, she'd called Candace her precious flawless diamond. Memories surrounding her beauty queen aunt and her jade necklace gift comfort Candace who is certain she will always be a dork. She allows her best friend, Ruby Ping, to put her down. Candace is grateful to be her sidekick even though Ruby ditches her to meet pot smoking, white-guy punks.

Candace is embarrassed when her immigrant parents bark out broken English. Living with her parents and younger brother, Kenny, above the bustling restaurant, Candace finds solace in the concrete backyard amidst garbage cans. Lately Kenny is there, too, but he is blowing up lizards with firecrackers. She doesn't tell on him, and he doesn't tell when she steals tip money off tables or sneaks out. More than anything, Candace wants a boy to like her. Then, maybe, she will gain Ruby's respect. When will she gain her own?

This potent coming of age story, I WANT CANDY, follows the racial struggle of a Chinese girl in San Francisco. Writer Kim Wong Keltner writes a true account of dual culture adjustment with wit and insight. Wong Keltner's dialogue is snappy, and Candace's conflicted efforts make I WANT CANDY a fascinating read. Because of its explicit sexual content, I recommend this book to readers over the age of eighteen unless a parent reads with a teen.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Kathleen


B. Case
"I Want Candy" by Kim Wong Keltner, is an honest, comic, sexually explicit romp through the mind of an eighth-grade girl growing up in San Francisco in 1983. This is the story of Candace Ong, by day a typical brainy eighth-grader attending a private Catholic school, and at almost any other time, simply the "Eggroll Girl" at her parents' Chinese restaurant, a position and nickname she's held since she was five years old.

Candace hates her life. She hates working in her family's restaurant. She hates having parents who can't speak English correctly. She hates how she looks, how she feels, how she acts. She wants to be like her best friend, Ruby. But lately Ruby's made some abrupt missteps into a world of casual sex, and Candace feels abandoned. Part of her wants to follow her friend's lead, but there's something holding her back.

The book takes place in the short span of about five months--the last few months of eighth grade and the summer before high school begins. Without Ruby to run around with, Candace is set adrift. Over the course of the book, Candace lives through an incredibly odd and eventful summer, narrowly escaping sexual missteps much worse than her friend Ruby. By the time high school starts, Candace is a lot wiser--not yet an adult, but no more a child.

Keltner knows how to write--her voice is fresh, honest, irreverent, bright, and above all, humorous. She perfectly captures the zany over-the-top eccentric charm of San Francisco, especially from the eyes of a child who takes it all in as if everything about this world were perfectly normal.

I found myself more attracted to this book than I would have possibly thought ahead of time. It amused me and made me think a great deal about my own awkward middle-school years.

This book should appeal to angst-ridden mothers of middle-school-age children who want to be reminded of how difficult their own days of sexual awakening were way back then---after the sexual revolution but way before the "Rainbow Party" world that they dread awaits their own precious children. These women may need to be reminded that they turned out all right despite all that over emphasis on sex...and perhaps be comforted that their own children will probably turn out all right, too.
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