Author: David Yoo
ISBN : 0-440-23883-8
Type of book: Racism, growing up, friendship, love, girls, ethnicity, life, school, elementary school, middle school, high school, 1980s?-1990s?
Year it was published: 2005
Drumstick legs, cherry-colored lips, dumpling cheeks...everything about them, he wants to eat up. But he's dateless and has been since he discovered girls in the third grade, and he's convinced himself that this is solely based on the fact that he's the only Korean American teenage in Renfield- the fifth richest (and WASPiest) town in Connecticut. In Nick's mind, he sticks out like a "banana in a wheat field."
Now it's time for Nick to figure it out once and for all.
Is it all in his head, or are his suspicions that his heritage is keeping him from a triumphant boob fest true?
For me personally Nick is both a character I hate, yet I seem to understand him a great deal. Let's say he caused me to really open the wounds from school. I was disgusted with his treatment of a girl because of her reputation and I really disapproved of his habits. I was honestly surprised that he didn't turn to harder drugs. My own foray into school rarely had true friends. I tried my hardest to get friends, to have a boyfriend, but school failed. It wasn't until way past school that perhaps I have some social skills to show off my surprisingly intelligent side which people enjoy for some odd reason. Mainly the reader sees the character of Nick who is obsessed with his own ethnicity and who seeks to pay people back as well as fit in one way or another. For me personally, this is a dark book and only beginning and ending were good, although one did wish for an epilogue as to what happened to the characters in college, and whether or not Nick learned his lessons.
"Their problem with me being Asian only surfaces with certain things. In general, everyone can handle the thought of me as a classmate, or teammate, or just Nick-the guy they've known since Crying Stream- but they sure as hell can't swallow the thought of me getting someone like...[a popular white girl]. There are these expectations, or lack of expectations, about me because of my ethnicity. People expect me to be a brainy pansy, for example. It's not true, but that's irrelevant; the fact is, everyone knows about these stereotypes. It's there when no one says anything. Since it's about me, I feel them, but none of this really matters anymore, because the fact is I did get the hot popular chick-and then I screwed it all up because it turns out I"m just as bad as them. I'm a hypocrite after all.
"It was always about me and not about the girls." (Page 286)
This is written in first person narrative strictly from Nick's point of view. I personally felt that I was stuck inside Nick's head and for the life of me couldn't understand what the hell he was doing wrong! Contrary to the rating, this is a well written book that causes examination of self as well as wonderment that all this existed very very currently instead of the long ago faded out 1800s. The reader journeys with Nick from third grade to the person he became today and stops at graduation. There are brief moments of pause where it goes to a 'Sunday' and Nick contemplating life.
About this author
David Yoo's first collection of essays, The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever (Grand Central) is out June 19, 2012. He is a graduate from Skidmore College with an MA from the University of Colorado-Boulder. His first novel, Girls For Breakfast (Delacorte) was a Booksense Pick, an NYPL Books For the Teen Age selection, and a Reading Rants Top Ten Books for Teens choice. He lives in Massachusetts, where he regularly plays adult soccer and Sega Genesis and teaches fiction at the Gotham Writers' Workshop.
In more ways than one this is the most painful book I've read. It's not painful when it comes to writing or character development; there weren't typos, the book was entertaining in its own way, but it was very crippling emotionally. My nerves were unsheathed and scraped raw by this character, because I was confused on whether or not to hate him or love him. I could really relate to him when it comes to my own experiences of growing up, although I'm white skinned and not Asian, yet due to my origins I always felt alienated. I felt pity for him on multiple levels, especially his struggle with women and fitting in, and ironically one of the friends I used to have, if he read ever read contemporary novels would really identify with him. On the other hand I detested him and was extremely angry at his selfishness; you want people to forget that you're Asian and to treat you normally? Treat them the same way! I felt disgusted that Nick was a status-seeker and instead of thinking how he will look forward to finding someone, he's always thinking of winning and of attaining girls more for showing off rather than for understanding. (Trophy women would be appropriate words...) When I finished reading this book, I had a long debate on what to rate it. Normally I give low grades to book that honestly did drive me nuts one way or the other, yet this book was written beautifully and it seemed to be without mistakes. It honestly had readers examine themselves and caused me to think a great deal about various things. When I talked over the situation with my parents, they advised me to rate it on a pleasure factor, which seemed selfish. Yet I didn't enjoy the huge chunk of book, thus I decided to settle on two stars. Lastly, this song is dedicated to all the ugly ducklings in high school:
2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)