...a masterfully crafted collection of interwoven portraits of six young Chinese ... through the telling of these six stories, Ash cleverly weaves information about demographics, government policies, political history, as well as social and cultural trends ... If there is a frustration with the book and its gaggle of characters, it’s my desire for at least one of them to tap into the riskier territory of dissent ... The richness of Ash’s book is in the character development, the details of everyday life, dreams, frustrations, and contradictions of these particular individuals. Ash enters their worlds as a peer (he is their same age) and he’s a sensitive listener, reporter, and storyteller.
[Ash has] written something braver than his own coming-of-age tale: He’s told us the stories of six Chinese around his age who gravitate to the country’s immense, churning capital, disappearing altogether from the narrative until the book’s final few pages, having delivered an intimate portrait of his subjects ... Mr. Ash is a deft pointillist whose work offers a fresh take on a society the West still struggles to understand.
Lyrical, with its characters finely drawn, Ash’s book paints a telling portrait of this most restless generation raised in a system that has provided them with unprecedented personal opportunities while denying them political ones ... Ash parses the particulars of China’s hookup culture and has written probably the best paragraph in the modern Western oeuvre describing how Chinese women approach dating, getting just right how they often feign helplessness to make their male friends feel strong. Ash is also attune to the yawning divide between country-bumpkin climbers and the urban cool ... Ash has said that he purposely avoided passing judgment on the generation because it would be unfair to generalize from such a small sample. But I’d argue that especially because Ash is a fellow millennial and such a gifted observer, he’s uniquely placed to draw conclusions about this group. The fate of a large portion of humanity turns on the answer. He should have given it a try.