Finally Seen

Finally Seen by Kelly Yang


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

After spending years in China while her parents and sister build a life in America, Lina Gao finally gets to join them. She soon discovers that life there isn’t easy. But she also realizes America offers the chance to find her voice and be heard.

Plot Summary

Lina Gao dreamed of the day when she could join her parents and little sister in America. Now, after years of waiting, that day finally arrives. Even though she misses her grandma, who had to stay in China, Lina looks forward to connecting with her parents and sister.

However, she quickly discovers that life in America isn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

Lina’s parents weren’t completely honest about their situation in America. Her dad is working for little pay on an organic farm because he lost his spot at the university. Lina’s mom lost her job at the nail salon during the pandemic, so now she’s trying to start a bath bomb business to pay the back rent they owe. But if these hardships weren’t enough, people make fun of Lina for her limited English.

But it’s not all bad.

The first bright spots appear at school. Lina’s teacher is supportive, and she receives encouragement and tutoring from the English language specialist, Mrs. Ortiz. With the help of the librarian, Lina even finds some graphic novels and books she can enjoy and use to build her language skills.

Lina then befriends a boy in her class named Finn and gets to know Carla, whose mom works on the farm with her dad. However, her difficulties are far from over.

As Lina contends with bullies, racism, and censorship, all while her family’s future hangs over her head, she has to make an important decision. Does she keep her head down and remain in the shadows, or does she step out and dare to be seen?

Christian Beliefs

Heaven is mentioned.

Other Belief Systems

Praying at a temple and pagan gods are mentioned.

Authority Roles

Lina is raised by her grandparents. Her parents are hardworking and loving, but they lied to her about how good their lives were in America.

Lina’s teachers, Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Ortiz, are supportive and kind. Mrs. Hollins, the librarian, lets Lina use the library as a refuge and helps her find books to read. Parents at Lina’s school give generously to the school, but they also expect special treatment and a measure of control as a result. Pete, Mr. Gao’s boss, manipulates and lies to him.

Profanity & Violence

Lina accidentally pronounces an English word as a curse word. Finn’s dad gets drunk when they go to Las Vegas.

Sexual Content

Lina contemplates whether or not her friend Finn is cute.

Discussion Topics

Have you ever felt invisible like Lina? What made you feel that way?

Read 1 Peter 3:15-16, Proverbs 31:9 and Ephesians 4:13. What do these verses say about Christians speaking out?

Have you ever spoken up for something you believe in? Is there anything you think you should speak up about?

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Additional Comments

Finally Seen features strong characters and a compelling plot. However, the topics of racism and censorship could be difficult for young readers to navigate without parental guidance.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Rachel Pfeiffer