“ZZ is an anomaly in a world of power and money. His name is Zhang Zhan, which connotes ‘stretching’ and ‘spreading of wings’, and his parents are fiercely ambitious minor party officials, climbing the lower rungs of what they see as a golden ladder to influence and success. ZZ is their only son and what they need was a perfect son, an aspiring and formidable prop, driven to climb the ladder himself and become a powerful official. But ZZ doesn’t care. He is the misfit who rejects it all. They didn’t ask about his thoughts, or care about his feelings and he will not set foot on that ladder, nor steady it for his parents. Instead, all he wants to do is tear it apart and burn it to ashes. He knows it has to be done and also knows it will never happen. There are ladders everywhere and people clamoring to climb them.
This is a novel of Chinese classes, the rich and also the impoverished who dream of what ZZ, in his funny blue hat knitted by his grandmother, has thrown out like garbage. It takes the form of a search for him conducted by the mother of one of ZZ’s former classmates, but she finds much more than the boy…”