Summary: Living with his father and step-family in Canada after moving from China, Ray Liu is an eighteen year-old frustrated with his lot in life. He’s got two years left of high school because he’s an English-as-a-second-language student, and he’s hiding a secret from his strict father. Looking for some respect and acknowledgement that he is an adult, as well as the freedom to be who he really is, everything blows up when his father discovers the websites Ray has been visiting and kicks him out. Now Ray is living on the street, discovering that he may not be as much of an adult as he thinks he is, and resorting to selling his body to stay sheltered at night. There’s no way he can go back to the life he had before, but his experiences just might give him the confidence to insist on some changes.
Number of Pages: 184
Age Range: 16-18
Review: Definitely a book for older teens, Paul Yee explores the immigrant experience with Ray Liu in Money Boy. This is my second time reading it, and this time I was able to get over my initial shock of Ray’s experiences to take a closer look at the story itself.
This time, I took note of Ray’s struggle for independence. He’s eighteen years old, but since his family’s move to Canada it’s like he has gone back in time and has been forced into a more childlike role. He’s frustrated and angry, and while his being gay drew my attention the first time around, I realised this time that it’s only a symbol of what is going on. Being gay and being open about being gay is a step towards adulthood for Ray. He stands up for himself, has new experiences, and is able to gain more equal ground with his father.
It’s a gritty tale, and I felt for Ray as he found himself in one bad situation after another. He begins the book feeling entitled and naive in some ways and I did find him to be irritating, but no one deserves what he went through. I can’t imagine what it would be like to move to a completely new country and learn a new language while dealing with cultural differences. Though the truth of the experience is painful, I appreciated Yee’s willingness to give me a glimpse.
“Teachers point at us immigrants and say, ‘Speak up, the class wants to hear you. We really do!’
One day in English, the class read a play together. Each student had to read aloud as we went through the lines. Everyone was bored. No one paid attention until I reached the word ‘awry.’ I must have said it wrong because the entire class burst out laughing as if it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. I thought they were too bored to care. Even the teacher smiled.
People wait to jump on our mistakes.” – Ray from Money Boy by Paul Yee, page 41
“I can’t go with him. Immigrants take care of themselves. If we come and use the welfare system, then other Chinese will have a harder time getting into Canada. That’s what Niang says.” – Ray from Money Boy by Paul Yee, page 49
“If I get angry, then I’m young and lack self-control. I need to be adult and show no weakness. At school, silence is seen as stupidity, because silence means you can’t speak English properly. But here, silence is power.” – Ray from Money Boy by Paul Yee, page 75