Since You Asked... by Maurene Goo
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Holly is a fifteen-year-old Korean-American whose three best friends are a geeky boy who is Chinese-American, a beautiful, rich girl who is Persian-American, and a Euro-American girl whose parents are hippie types. They attend a public high school in San Diego, and Holly writes a snappy column in her school newspaper about surviving life as a sophomore.
This humorous, chick-lit, multicultural, young-adult novel alternates between Holly's school life and her home life in a large, extended Korean family. Holly has a quite assertive temperament, and she is constantly butting heads with her mother, who is even more forceful and stubborn than Holly. Like most teenagers, Holly is striving to discover her own unique personality and life goals, something that the American culture of individualism strongly encourages. Unfortunately, her mother, as a first-generation immigrant from a country with a more communal approach to life, feels that Holly's desire to be independent is a slap in the face of the values of respect and obedience that her mother prizes.
I had an opportunity some years ago to form friendships with young women who had recently immigrated to the US from Korea and others whose mothers were first-generation Korean immigrants. Based on that experience, from my perspective, the portrayal of Korean-American family life in this novel seems accurately and sympathetically done. I also see some fascinating resemblances in Holly's parents to my own German-American grandparents, who were the offspring of immigrants and who taught values to their children similar to those of Holly's family, loyalty and strong interconnection between the members of their large, extended family of 12 children and over 50 grandchildren. Like Holly's family, we frequently got together to socialize, and my aunts and uncles were a constant support network to each other. As the saying goes, we are a nation of immigrants, and a story like this is a vivid and fascinating reminder to all of us of our own first-generation-American roots.
I found Holly's relationships outside her family to be of great interest as well. Her snarky observations of high school life in general are humorously entertaining, and I really enjoyed her close connections with her three best friends.
This book is G-rated enough for preteens in that it avoids foul language, sexual situations, drinking and drugs. However, I would not therefore assume it is a "middle-grade" novel, as I've noticed some YA reviewers tend to do for any teen novel that is not "gritty" in its subject matter. This is definitely YA fiction, with a story line that is interesting enough that readers of all ages will enjoy it.
I rate this book as follows:
Family Dramedy Plot: 4
School Reporter Plot: 4