Thursday, September 04, 2008

Book Review: Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Book: Good Enough
Author: Paula Yoo
Published: 2008

Patti has spent her entire life as a PKD (Perfect Korean Daughter). She’s a “B-tier” violin prodigy, locked in a dead heat for valedictorian, never so much as squeaked a rebellion, practicing the SATs until she can break that magical 2300, and in the process of applying to HarvardYalePrinceton (and other Ivies as safety schools). Still, there’s no resting on her laurels. No matter what she does, her parents push her to improve.

Then she meets Ben (aka “Cute Trumpet Guy”) and discovers that none of those things matter to him. SAT, GPA, Ivies, success, accolades, laurels, they’re all just words and what he likes is Patti herself. Is it possible that she is good enough all on her own?

I loved a lot of things about this book. Here they are, in no particular order.

First, (spoiler!) Patti did not get the guy--neither the one she wants nor the one I thought for sure was waiting in the wings. Paula Yoo seems to understand that Patti trading PKD status for girlfriend status would have simply traded one label in for another, and Patti needs to move beyond fulfilling predetermined roles to discover her own identity.

Second, Patti’s parents. While they exert insane pressure on Patti, Yoo also does a good job of humanizing them. A lot of authors wouldn’t have shown the late night family snacks of Spam and ramen noodles (um . . . yummy?) or the stories of their past in Korea. These touches, as well as others, turns them from 2-D characters who just want bragging rights into loving parents who truly do want the best for their daughter.

Third, Patti doesn’t come into the story with no passions of her own. Her love of the violin and making music is like a pilot light, burning quietly while her identity takes shape. While her parents do urge her on, you can clearly see the joy and freedom she feels when she plays, even at the beginning of the book.

My only gripe is that, small Asian population or not, I don’t know if a modern-day high school would have stood for the outrageous racial slurs that Patti encounters, such as a popular girl dressing up as a geisha for Halloween and spouting, “Me no speak Engrish” in the hallways. Of course, I’m neither Asian nor in high school, so I might be off on that one.

What can I say? Funny, accessible, thoughtful . . . I loved this book.

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