Author: David Yoo
Type of book: Asian male/white female, interracial relationship, cancer, social skills, high school, young adult, friendship, high school society
Year it was published: 2008
If Albert Kim has learned one thing in his tragic adolescence, it's that God (probably a sadistic teenaged alien) does not want him to succeed at Bern High. By the end of sophomore year, Al is so tired of humiliation that he's chosen to just forget girls and high school society in general, and enjoy the Zen-like detachment that comes from being an intentional loser.
Then he meets Mia Stone, and all the repressed hormones come flooding back. Mia, his co-worker at the Bern Inn, is adorable, popular, and most intimidatingly, the ex- long-term girlfriend of Ivy-bound, muscle-bound king of BHS and world class jerk, Ryan Stackhouse. But -- chalk it up to the magic of Al's inner beauty -- by the end of a summer vacuuming hotel rooms and goofing off together, he and Mia are officially "something."
Albert barely has time to ponder this miracle before the bomb drops: Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer, and he needs Mia's support, i.e. constant companionship. True, he's lost weight and he's getting radiation, but that doesn't make him any less of a jerk. And to Albert, it couldn't be more apparent that Ryan is using his cancer to steal Mia back. With the whole town rallying behind Ryan like he's a fallen hero, and Mia emotionally confused and worried for Ryan, Al's bid for love is not a popular campaign. In fact, it's exactly like driving the wrong way on a five-lane highway.
In this desperately funny novel, David Yoo tells an authentic story of first love, and therein captures the agony, the mania, the kicking and screaming that define teenage existence.
Considering that we're seeing people and events through Albert's eyes, its hard to tell whether or not the characters change throughout the novel, at least for me. Albert is very intelligent but lacks necessary social skills to get through life and high school, although towards the end he learns some. Mia is best described as an angel, at least through Albert's eyes. To an extent I do understand Mia's situation and what she's dealing, yet I also sympathized with Albert and what he might be going through. For me its difficult to choose sides and say who's right or wrong.
I think its about growing up and learning necessary social skills about life.
This is written in first person narrative completely from Albert's point of view. While the book does contain hints of racism, at least sort of coming from Ryan (if one chooses to interpret Ryan's comments from Albert's view,) its not as much as Girls for Breakfast. This book also has Americans that are friendly towards Albert, and, one could say, a bit "washed" when compared to Girls for Breakfast. I have to admit that I liked Albert better than Nick from Girls for Breakfast.
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.
This was the second time I read the book, and I found it a funny, confusing and delightful read. I could relate to Albert a lot and felt really bad for how things went for him. This was actually the first book I read by David Yoo and I enjoyed the romance and moments between Mia and Albert. What confused me in the book are the rotaries that Albert is having trouble with when he picked Ryan up. I think I also would have liked if the readers could see some of Mia's point of view. Instead we had to go by what Albert said or thought of Mia. The reader also has to like Albert, because like it or not, you're stuck with Albert the whole time you're reading the book. This is also an intellectual type book and doesn't have easy vocabulary, not even for me. (Not as bad as Mysteries of Udolpho though.) . I also enjoyed reading the first few pages where Albert takes on a new view of Romeo and Juliet.
5 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.)