Maya's an overachiever. When she's not in class, she's studying, tutoring other kids (like Camden, a rich and rude popular boy), or working at her family's restaurant. Sometimes she even studies between taking orders. She feels as though she's pretty responsible, and she gets the chance to prove it when her parents go out of town for a convention, leaving Maya and her younger brother alone at the house. They aren't running the restaurant all by themselves - the fantastic cooks and staff are there, as per usual - but they are expected to keep everything up.
After one really rough night at the restaurant, Maya decides that she and her brother can go home then and cleanup in the morning. It's a costly decision, because the next day, a Health Inspector comes by and fines them $10,000. Maya is determined to pay off the fine without her parents knowing, but how can she keep it a secret and raise the dough? When Cam offers her money to do his homework for him, Maya swallows her pride and agrees. The battle of money vs. morals wages on as Cam gets her additional clients, which means more money but less sleep.
As news of the homework society spreads and more and more kids get involved, Maya is faced with more and more tough decisions. Should she stop what she's started? Could she, even if she wanted to? It's has become bigger than she is (she really is petite) and it's become more complicated than she ever dreamed. She knows the truth will out, but at what cost? Maya stumbles and stresses, but she ultimately finds her footing and proves her worth.
She's So Money is the perfect title for this winning story. I absolutely raced through this book. Cherry Cheva (short for Chevapravatdumrong) has a knack for dialogue. Not only did her teenaged characters sound like actual teenagers, but each character has a clear voice. Cheva discusses differences between cultures, classes, and genders in a realistic fashion, with characters talking openly or with their bias coming out in their speech or their actions. This book will speak to anyone who has ever felt obligated to work at his or her family's place of business or felt pressure to be perfect.
Because I know there are teenagers reading this blog, I'm going to say very clearly: Kids, don't try this at home. I've spoken with many of my favorite customers about cheating, and I always encourage them to just say no.
Here are some additional recommended reads about cheating/academic scandals:
Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks
The Taker by J.M. Steele
Cheating Lessons by Nan Willard Cappo
The Cheat by Amy Goldman Koss
Read my interview with Cherry Cheva.