From Publishers Weekly
This deceptively innocent tale of psychological warfare between two elementary school students is the brief but forceful U.S. debut of Korea's most popular fiction writer. When 12-year-old Han Pyongt'ae moves to a small town from Seoul to begin fifth grade, he expects his cosmopolitan education will impress everyone. He quickly notices that the other students are indifferent and unusually obedient to Om Sokdae, the slightly older class monitor. At first, Han refuses to give in to the older boy's will, unaccustomed to power resting in anyone's hands other than the teacher's. Although Sokdae strong-arms his friends into bullying Han, the two of them rarely engage in direct confrontation, infusing the book's crucial relationship with a thought-provoking mixture of contempt and respect. Han ultimately acquiesces to Sokdae's rule, even growing to admire the older boy's inventiveness and daring. But blemishes in Sokdae's seemingly perfect academic recordAsuch as his predilection for cheating on all-important examsAare later uncovered, building toward a gratifying climax in which the system of control long accepted in the school faces a potent challenge. Parallels to Korea's current political climate become evident early on in the book; indeed, it was written in 1987, following the Kwangju Massacre and during a period of intense dictatorship in Korea. Munyol sustains interest by keeping the story simple, focused and close to readers' intuitive sense of right and wrong. Moreover, the charismatic Sokdae and the stubborn, idealistic Han are familiar, credible characters. This persuasive and morally enlightened novel makes a winning entrance for Munyol into Western readers' imaginations. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Some 30 years after leaving Seoul, where he attended a prestigious elementary school, Han Pyongt'ae takes a retrospective look at himself as a 12-year-old adjusting to life in a small town with new rules and expectations. Han had thought that his new school would be easy, but much to his surprise and disgust, he discovers that schoolmate Om Sokdae has been secretly using his position as classroom monitor to intimidate his fellow classmates into giving him their possessions, writing his papers, and taking his tests. Han's efforts to challenge Om Sokdae lead to his ostracism. This universal tale by one of Korea's most popular novelists adeptly describes the hardships of a child subjected to bullying. The plot is engrossing, the characters well developed, and the translation noteworthy. This is the first of Yi Munyol's work to be published in the United States, and it will very likely not be the last. Recommended for general and Asian fiction collections in academic and larger public libraries.DShirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.