Hannah Tucker
August 01, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”My youth began when I was twenty-one,” explains Fenfang, an aspiring actress and the spirited protagonist of Xiaolu Guo’s novel. ”That was when I started to think that all those shiny things in life — some of them might possibly be for me.” Fenfang moves to Beijing, falls in love with an American, and appeals to the ”Heavenly Bastard in the Sky” for guidance. Ten years after writing Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, Guo began translating it into English (with Pamela Casey and Rebecca Morris). While not as polished or funny as 2007’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, this is an engrossing portrait of a charmingly chaotic young woman. A-

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