John Son, Author . Scholastic/Orchard $16.95 (185p) ISBN 978-0-439-43538-3

Son's debut novel, an entry in the First Person Fiction series, is a tender quasi-memoir detailing his childhood in a Korean immigrant family, trying to find his place in a new and unfamiliar world. Jin-Han's father is in love with American opportunity and is determined to own his own business. He purchases a wig shop, which takes them from Chicago to Memphis to Houston, where they are at last successful. Along the way, Jin-Han experiences the usual pains of adolescence—fitting in, understanding the opposite sex—but with the added challenge of an unusual name, language and appearance. Son's language is at times startling with its simple elegance: Jin-Han's first kiss makes his insides feel "like a beehive on a warm, sunny afternoon," and his depiction of a dance party at a friend's house, in which the kids keep playing the same slow dance over and over, captures the essence of sweet teenage romanticism. The family dynamic is strong; Jin-Han's parents emerge as robust and complex individuals. Jin-Han ultimately emerges as his own man, a product of his family ties but not prisoner to them. The book liberally uses Korean words and phrases—Jin-Han's mother is his Uhmmah, his father his Ahpbah—and includes a brief glossary, which adds another pinch of flavor to an already inviting and warm story. Ages 11-15. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-33302-3
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-439-43539-0
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