Maizy Chen's Last Chance

by Lisa Yee (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Packed with surprises, heart, and stories within stories, this irresistible novel from an award-winning author celebrates food, fortune, and family.

Welcome to the Golden Palace!

Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota . . . until now. Her mom's plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian Americans) and at the Golden Palace--the restaurant that's been in her family for generations--she makes some discoveries.

For instance:

  • You can tell a LOT about someone by the way they order food.
  • And people can surprise you. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in disappointing ways.
  • And the Golden Palace has secrets.

But the more Maizy discovers, the more questions she has. Like, why are her mom and her grandmother always fighting? Who are the people in the photographs on the office wall? And when she discovers that a beloved family treasure has gone missing--and someone has left a racist note--Maizy decides it's time to find the answers.

"Heartfelt, personal, and real--this book is a gift." --TAE KELLER, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger

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Kirkus Reviews

A moving, engrossing story of a girl’s transformative change and strengthened sense of belonging.

Publishers Weekly

In this fast-paced narrative, Chinese American only child Maizy Chen travels with her food stylist single mother from Los Angeles to her mom's hometown of Last Chance, Minn., to care for Maizy's ailing grandfather. As the 11-year-old gets to know her estranged grandparents--mischievous poker player Opa and stern but loving Oma, proud restaurant owners-- she must navigate unfamiliar stressors both familial and social, including the tension between her mother and Oma, and microaggressions as the only child of color in town. Over the course of an unpredictable summer, Maizy learns how to play poker, how her ancestors helped to support paper sons, and how to insert custom messages into the restaurant's fortune cookies, all while solving a mystery or two. Interspersed segments reveal Maizy's great-great-grandfather's journey to Last Chance, efficiently conveying historical struggles faced by Chinese emigrants to America. If the book feels overstuffed at times, Yee's (The Kidney Hypothetical) full house of endearing characters and assured voice prevail in a humorous, sincere story emphasizing the taut thread between past and present, and the imperative to aid others. Back matter includes an author's note with historical context, a recipe for Oma's Cream Cheese Wontons, and resources. Ages 8-12. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Feb.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Maizy Chen's Last Chance

"Heartfelt, personal, and real—this book is a gift. Readers will cheer and feel for Maizy as she bonds with her grandparents, discovers the joys and pains of growing up, and learns about her family's Chinese American history." —Tae Keller, Newbery-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger

"Bursting with humor and heart, Maizy Chen's Last Chance celebrates the power of food, family, understanding our roots, and stepping up to help others when it mattersthe most." —Kate Messner, New York Times bestselling author of Breakout and Chirp

"I love this book. This is a big story and brings up much-needed discussion about the importance of community, history, and truth." —Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning author of One Crazy Summer
Lisa Yee
Lisa Yee's novels include Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time (an ALA Notable Book); the Bobby chapter book series, and most recently, Warp Speed. She is also the author of the American Girl books Good Luck, Ivy!, Aloha, Kanani and Good Job, Kanani. Please visit her website at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date
April 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
Library of Congress categories
Chinese Americans

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