cover image Bloody Seoul

Bloody Seoul

Sonia Patel. Cinco Puntos, $11.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-947627-21-5

Rocky, 16, the emotionally scarred son of a powerful crime boss in Seoul, comes of age in the shadow of gang violence. Abandoned by but devoted to his substance-abusing mother and increasingly suspicious of his brutal father (rumored to have broken the gang’s honor code by torturing competitors excessively), Rocky tries to exert control by bullying and extorting his fellow students. Yet Rocky is full of contradictions—he’s a high academic performer who loves Italian opera and ancient art as much as wielding his knife. Troubled by and sometimes on the receiving end of his father’s despotic leadership style, Rocky grapples with the hurt he has inflicted and attempts to escape from a history of violence while uncovering his family’s painful past. Patel (Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story) presents the sights and sounds of Seoul accurately, though Rocky’s inner dialogue is indistinguishable from an American teenager’s, making the Korean setting feel superimposed. Secondary characters exist in broad caricature, with personalities and sordid secrets reminiscent of daytime television, and violent scenes portray physical and emotional harm that may be intense for the stated age range. But Patel’s choppy, terse sentences reflect Rocky’s precarious emotional state and compulsive behavior, which are explored alongside themes of redemption, self-discovery, and generational trauma. Ages 12–up. [em](July) [/em]