From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–The pack of lies about her academic achievement that Mina has told to satisfy her mother's high expectations (she has her heart set on her daughter going to Harvard) is unraveling as her senior year approaches. Jonathon Kim, a Stanford-bound teen and the son of her mother's best friend, has helped with the deception by forging Mina's report cards and backing up her many fictions. He asks too much of her, though, while Ysrael, the attractive new employee in the family cleaning business, encourages her to follow her own dreams–and him–to San Francisco. The tension in this Korean-American family is as uncomfortable as the heat and Santa Ana winds of the southern California setting. Mina's mother's bitterness over her lot in life and her neglect of Mina's hearing-impaired younger sister, Suna, have left the teen responsible. The story is told in two voices: first-person past tense for Mina and a distancing third-person present for Suna, just entering middle school and just beginning to find her own voice. The book is carefully crafted and beautifully written; even the punctuation emphasizes the fact that this is the younger generation's story. The adults speak without quotation marks. Na plays with her readers, suggesting in the prologue that the resolution of this story will come with a car crash, but instead makes Mina's decision about her future a logical outcome of her emotional growth. Accessible and wonderfully discussable, this story of family secrets and family love is a worthy successor to Na's A Step from Heaven
(Front St, 2001).–Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD
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*Starred Review* Gr. 8-11. The author of the Printz Award Book A Step from Heaven
(2001) tells another contemporary Korean American story of leaving home. This time, though, love is as powerful as the intense family drama. The focus is on high-school-senior Mina, trapped in the web of lies invented to satisfy her overbearing mom, Uhmma, who expects Mina to attend Harvard and escape the drudgery of their small-town dry-cleaning store. Mina's brilliant friend, Jonathan Kim, helps her cheat and steal. She uses him, but he thinks he loves her--and he eventually rapes her. Then Mexican immigrant Ysrael, a gifted musician on his way to San Francisco, comes to work in the store, and he and Mina fall passionately in love. Will she go with him and make a new life free of lies? Ysrael is too perfect, just as Uhmma is demonized, but both are shown from Mina's viewpoint, and it is her struggle with her secrets that is spellbinding. Alternating with Mina's first-person narrative are short vignettes from the perspective of Mina's deaf younger sister, who Mina protects. The conflicts of love, loyalty, and betrayal are the heart of the story--and they eventually show Mina her way. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved