A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is little to be concerned about in this book. Patty and her family face some racism, but in the end, she is able to confront a character. Even Patty's rebellious behavior is pretty mild: She sneaks out of a church lock-in to go to a concert with her crush, and later in the book, she yells at her parents (and tells readers that this was the first time she had ever "raised my voice" to them. We should all be so lucky!).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Patty Yoon's parents pressure her to get into an Ivy League college, and she works hard to meet their expectations. Her life revolves around studying, taking practice SAT tests, practicing the violin, and hanging out with the other overachievers at her Korean church. But an unlikely friendship helps spark something new in her: The idea that she could choose a life of her own.
Is it any good?
The story takes a pretty predictable path: A nerdy girl learns to stop letting her parents dictate her life and becomes her own person. What's special about the story is that protagonist Patty is a really believable and relatable character: she loves both the violin and academics, she loves her parents, and even the kids in her church group -- and when she finally tells her crush, Ben, her true feelings, he tells her he only likes her as "a friend."
Her transformation into a girl who can stand up for herself is equally convincing. Readers will know that she has spunk all the time by her self-deprecating humor and the chapter interludes, such as "Top Ten Ways to Avoid Ben Wheeler at School" or "How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy, Part 4." Readers will appreciate Patty's brave confrontation with her parents, even if it comes at an unlikely moment (right before an important concert performance). Maybe the book will end too neatly for some, but students -- especially overachievers like Patty -- will appreciate her gradual understanding that she has "all the time in the world" to compose a life she loves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the pressures facing teens today, especially around getting into colleges. Do parents put too much pressure on their kids to be the best at everything? You could check in with your teen: How much stress are you feeling to succeed -- in school and in other activities? Do you ever feel like you are juggling too much?
This story is about an Asian-American overachiever. What other books or movies can you think of that feature similar characters? Is Patty a stereotype -- or does her story present an accurate representation of cultural expectations that many Asian teens face? Are there other Asian stories that need to be told?
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