Kids Today

here seems to be a rule that, when one is young and in China, one ought to write a book about others who are also young in China. Dychtwald deserves praise for doing his research in cities other than the elite centers of Shanghai and Beijing, and he follows in the (unacknowledged) literary footsteps of 2017’s Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China by Alec Ash, 2016’s Little Emperors and Material Girls by Jemimah Steinfeld, and China’s Millennials: The Want Generationby Eric Fish.

The recipe for these books seems relatively simple: Interview local friends and acquaintances, weave their life stories into a compelling and semi-connected narrative, add commentary to taste, and garnish with adventurous anecdotes from the author’s own life in China. The trick is, while simple recipes are hard to botch, they can be fiendish to master.