“Parachutes” is a need-to-read book

Emily Gray, Copy Editor

“Parachutes” by Kelly Yang has been one of the most influential books that I have read so far this year. When I picked up this book I was not expecting to be as strongly impacted as I ended up being and that, honestly, is the magic of reading. “Parachutes” is about two girls named Claire and Dani whose lives are forever changed after fatefully meeting. Claire is a Chinese girl who is sent by her wealthy father to live and study in America. Dani is a poor Filipino girl who lives with her mother in a small house in California. Dani’s mother decides to rent out a room in their house to Claire for some extra money because even though both Dani and her mother work at a cleaning service, there is still never enough money for all the bills they have to pay.

Right off the bat, Dani doesn’t like Claire; she is spoiled and entitled and expects Dani and her mother to do everything for her. I will say that although Claire does act like this, she grew up with that treatment and it would be a complete switch for her to be able to take care of herself, so I understand why Claire is acting as though that behavior is acceptable. 

Claire and Dani are attending the same private school, although Dani is on a scholarship, and the differences between the two girls at school is incredible. This school was basically created by inviting wealthy Chinese students to come and study there in exchange for extreme donations, so there is a large Chinese population. However, the Chinese students are separated from the other students and treated as though they don’t understand anything. Their classes are a joke and most of the time students just get to talk as the teacher does other things besides teach. 

The racism is evident from the beginning of the novel, not just for Claire, but Dani as well. Dani is a debate star and she is on track to go to Yale with a full scholarship because of her talents. Dani’s debate coach thinks she’s a star and generally gives her special help to push her further. However, because she isn’t white and wealthy, a lot of her classmates look down on her and believe that she isn’t worthy enough to be on the debate team or to even go to their school. Dani takes it all in stride and continues persevering even though no one seems to believe in her except her debate coach. Eventually, her debate coach tries to take advantage of her and that’s when Dani’s life feels like it starts spiraling down.

Both girls end up experiencing sexual assault in this book so there is a trigger warning at the beginning of the novel about it, but it was done perfectly. Throughout the entire novel, Dani and Claire do not get along, but having shared cases of sexual assault brings them together and allows them to be friends as neither of them knew that the other was struggling with the same problem.

I gave this book five stars. The way it shed light on how racist people still are today, no matter how much money they may have is insane, along with how the reaction to the sexual assault was handled in the school system. The school honestly failed both Dani and Claire by blaming them for it happening and not punishing the predators. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who feels passionately about racism and sexual assault. The author herself is Chinese and a sexual abuse survivor and her pain and anger come thorugh in the novel. This is a perfect read to feel motivated to make a change of how these things are handled in the school system.