Private Label by Kelly Yang
Release Date: 31st May 2022 (US)
Publisher: Harper360/Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Serene dreams of making couture dresses even more stunning than her mom’s, but for now she’s an intern at her mom’s fashion label. When her mom receives a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, all that changes. Serene has to take over her mother’s business overnight, dealing with ruthless investors who do not think a seventeen-year-old can run a fashion empire, while trying to figure out what happened with her dad in Beijing. He left before she was born, and Serene wants to find him, even if it means going against her mom’s one request—never look back.
Lian Chen moved from China to Serene’s mostly white Southern California beach town a year ago. He doesn’t fit in at school, where kids mispronounce his name. His parents don’t care about what he wants to do—comedy—and push him toward going to MIT engineering early. Lian thinks there’s nothing to stick around for, until one day, he starts Chinese Club after school . . . and Serene walks in.
Worlds apart in the high school hierarchy, Serene and Lian soon find refuge in each other, falling in love as they navigate life-changing storms.
I don’t usually like to pick up books about cancer unless I’m really in the right headspace. Thankfully,
when I requested Private Label from Harper360 (thank you!), I was prepared to feel all the feels. I
anticipated this book being super emotional, heart wrenching, and also really cute (since it’s a YA
contemporary, after all).
I thought Private Label was excellent. It was a really great mix of humorous, emotional, and girl bossy. While it’s told from two points of view, Serene’s and Lian’s, I feel like Serene was the real star
of the book. Both characters are dealing with a lot, don’t get me wrong. Lian is coping with bullying
and rcsm, as well as an overbearing mother. But Serene really shines through as she tries to handle
parts of her mother’s business while her mother goes through treatment for pancreatic cancer.
I have to admit, I didn’t shed any actual tears reading Private Label, and that’s the reason I haven’t
rated the book higher. Tears = stars, in my mind. However, that’s not to say I didn’t feel anything
while reading the book. I’m not completely heartless. Reading about Serene’s relationship with her
mother was a wonderful experience, and I also really liked seeing Serene and Lian getting to know
one another. I don’t think there was a lot of chemistry there, but I appreciated their two storylines
intercepting and becoming joined.
I would highly recommend checking out Private Label if YA contemporary is your thing. It’s the
perfect book to read in the summer if you want some emotions.