Vicenza, known as V, hates being called "FOB" (Fresh Off the Boat). A recent Filipino immigrant, she misses her lavish lifestyle in Manila and has a difficult time fitting in with the wealthy girls at Grosverner, her private girls school. Vicenza is hard pressed to admit to her limited means financially and wants a social life like Whitney Bertoccini and her clique, the most popular girls in the freshman class. Refusing to see her life as it is leads to treachery and deceit as V emails Peaches, her best friend in Manila, with fanciful information about her life in San Francisco. Her emails tell of what she wants, Claude Caligari, while her narration shows the reality of her initial disappointment in America. V tries to become someone she is not in her attempts to gain popularity, even though her new friend Isobel accepts her as she is. She looks past Paul, a guy who spends his breaks with her in the Sears cafeteria her mom runs, until she realizes, almost too late, that it is actually him that she likes and understands.
Melissa de la Cruz tackles the ever-repeated story line of girl wants boy but does a pretty good job of keeping it from sounding trite. Fresh Off the Boat qualifies as a "page turner" in a way similar to other young adult books narrated from a teen point of view. The inclusion of emails to Peaches at the end of chapters adds a great deal to the narration because it adds insight into Vicenza's desires. Fresh Off the Boat reminds me of the Samurai Girl series by Carrie Asai but is a much shorter and condensed account. The role of Whitney Bertoccini, the popular girl, is totally cliché but overall Fresh Off the Boat is worth reading for fun, perhaps as a stress reliever among other activities. Vicenza's prince, Paul, is a very likeable character even though he is in the background for most of the narration. The author, to mix things up a bit, could have avoided some of the overused ideas in setting up her characters. It is a book I can see made into a movie, such as Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries.