cover image Youn Hee & Me

Youn Hee & Me

C. S. Adler. Harcourt Children's Books, $12 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200073-8

Eleven-year-old Caitlin, her adopted Korean brother Simon and their mother are a tightly knit family, all the closer in light of Caitlin's divorced dad's absenteeism. So when they discover that Simon has a sister Caitlin's age in Korea, the decision to adopt her is made jointly, with much of the responsibility placed on Caitlin. ``You're the one who'll have to integrate her into our lives and keep her happy. It may become a burden,'' warns Caitlin's mother, setting up a disturbing theme that pervades the novel. Caitlin's happy anticipation of a new sibling quickly sours: Youn Hee's strict upbringing clashes with Caitlin's more rambunctious and impulsive style, and both girls vie for Simon's attention and affection. Unfortunately, the characters are cast in rigid, not entirely likable roles, and there are troubling inconsistencies. When Youn Hee slaps Simon after he misbehaves in a store, she is quietly corrected, but she is applauded later for ``beating up'' a classmate who hits Simon. These developments blur more serious issues, namely, the prejudice and disorientation that Youn Hee experiences. The strange focus, along with the combination of so many ineffectual adult figures, results in a disappointing novel from the author of the more successful Daddy's Climbing Tree and The Lump in the Middle. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)