Bookstore Manager’s Pick: Books for Teens
“Mom, I like this book so much! Is there another book written by this author?” My daughter, second-grade in middle school, exclaimed, “I’m gonna be her fan from now on!” as she flipped over the last page of You-won (Changbi Publishers, Inc.) written by author Baek On-Yu. She said the author’s style of writing sentences was particularly attractive. Not so long after, my daughter heard the news that the writer had won the “Author of the Day Award,” and she cheered as if she herself was the winner. Even though it is my job to recommend books to people, I was especially happy to see how much my daughter loved the book that I had recommended to her.
You-won, the winner of the 2020 Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction, is a novel about the life of high-schooler You-Won, who survived a tragic fire that happened when she was young. Imagine the situation that your sister sacrificed her life, someone got hurt to save you, your family collapsed, and the news articles and the comments about the accident remain forever on the Internet. Would you be able to live a normal life? Would you be able to overcome the pain and suffering from the past that will follow you for the rest of your life?
The author depicts the mind of You-Won with keen observations and engaging descriptions as she searches for her “true life” amidst human relationships that are full of contradictions. Readers watch in nervous anticipation as the feelings of guilt, self-pity, self-loathing, and indebtedness that were heavily weighing You-Won down turn into the courage to express anger, independence, and self-love. One day, You-Won, who couldn’t even look down from a high place due to trauma, finally tries paragliding with the help of her friend Soo-Hyun. Readers will cheer when she flies high into the sky saying, “I’ve never been so light like this before,” and realize that they have been so deeply immersed in this 18-year-old girl’s emotions that they read the book from start to finish without stopping.
While the times and places are different in Aloha, My Moms (Changbi Publishers, Inc.), it is also a story about women that carved out their lives at the age of 18. The conversations in the Gyeongsang-do dialect may read odd at first, but you will soon find yourself absorbed in the story without noticing. The author said that a photo from the Pictorial Book of Korean Immigration to the U.S.A (Korean American United Foundation, 2002) motivated her to write the book. It is a fun and meaningful story based on historical facts that are not well-known.
120 years ago, picture brides Beo-Deul, Hong-Ju, and Song-Hwa immigrate to Hawaii from “Joseon” (Korea’s historical dynastic kingdom) holding photos of their husbands to-be. As they were women, whether from aristocrat families or otherwise, they could not speak out. They leave their homes with a dream to live their own lives in an unfamiliar country. However, the reality they encounter is different from what they imagined and they suffer loss and hardships. The three friends with different values and stories fight and fall out over both small and significant experiences, but come back together and help each other. The bonds and friendship of those left behind, the weak, and lonely shine in different colors which bind together and make the reader think of a rainbow. As we have relationships with other people and go through conflicts and encourage each other, we come to realize that such relationships may also exist among our friends and neighbors.
“Just like the waves that will last as long as there’s the ocean, waves of life will keep on splashing in as long as you are alive. ... They, who left Joseon together, will live on, walk through the waves fervently, may there be pain and joy. A rainbow would appear whenever the waves made sprays.”
Written by Lee Sook-Hee (Head of Dream Book Shop)