Feb 14 2008
Dear Ms. Yoo,
I love reading young adult novels featuring strong narrative voices. I think it’s one of the key strengths of the genre, and often the place where many fail. It’s difficult finding a voice that sounds authentic and unforced, but I’m pleased to say this novel does not disappoint.
Patti Yoon is entering her senior year of high school while struggling to balance appeasing her parents’ wishes and fitting in. Anyone who’s ever attended an American high school can sympathize with that. What sets Patti’s story apart is she has to balance American sensibilities with the expectations of her very traditional Korean parents.
I absolutely adored the format you used. Interspersing Patti’s narrative with lists, rules to please her parents, college statistics, and Korean spam recipes was both charming and unique. And the placement of those unorthodox sections was always on point, either bringing a smile to my face or making me cringe along with Patti.
One aspect I really enjoyed was Patti’s love of the violin. I don’t play myself but I had many friends in my high school orchestra and I still remember the various fall outs that happened after a successful challenge and a friend lost their seat. What I particularly liked here is how Patti’s struggle between her genuine love of music and the violin and her parents’ view that it was just another hook to look good on her college applications felt real. I think many people can sympathize with having to choose between an occupation that is your dream but may not pay much at all, versus a job that will pay a lot but that you hate with all your heart. It’s a big deal for many people and when you add on the burden of having parents who immigrated to a different country specifically to give you a better life and more opportunity, that’s even harder.
I also enjoyed Patti’s relationships in the book. The interactions with her church youth group were hilarious but believable, and her awkward crush on Ben definitely rings true for all those girls who find themselves in the dreaded role of “just a friend” and watching your crush date the hot girl who you don’t particularly like. Patti’s struggle to be friends with Ben while trying to control her feelings was great, though I think I would have liked to have seen more of their improv guitar and violin sessions together.
One thing that felt a little tacked on was the racial prejudice introduced at the end. The brief exchanges we saw earlier in the book, set in Patti’s high school, fit in seamlessly, but the exchange in the store between Stephanie’s mother and Patti’s father with both daughters present stuck out. Perhaps it was meant to, but the way it was used in Patti’s final resolution with her parents made it seem like it’d been introduced for that sole purpose. A convenient plot device and nothing more. I think Stephanie’s inability to see Patti’s point of view might have contributed to this feeling.
While it’s been several years since I’ve applied to college, the process Patti goes through doesn’t seem much different. I remember the interviews and essays and SATs and how stressful that time can be. This was almost like a walk down memory lane, minus the actual stress and pressure, which I’m glad is far behind me. B
This book can be purchased in hardcover. No ebook format can be found. What is the deal with YA books NOT being in e format?