A driven young woman learns to balance expectations and priorities with heart and passion.
A vivid, comical scene of everyday life in Koreatown introduces narrator Jenny Jooyoung Go, a high school junior and classical cellist aiming for a top conservatory. While her single-minded focus yields technical perfection, competition judges deem Jenny lacking in soulful spark. Her Uncle Jay advises her to experience more of life and broaden her horizons. An opportunity soon beckons, and the plot unfolds like a minidrama amid the Los Angeles Korean Festival, launching Jenny and her new acquaintance, Jaewoo, on an accidental adventure that foreshadows romance. When her mom, a widowed immigration lawyer, needs to return to Seoul to care for her dying mother, Jenny negotiates to go along for her first visit to Korea. Attending Seoul Arts Academy, Jenny witnesses the institutional grooming of K-pop idols—including (surprise!) classmate Jaewoo, who, as it turns out, is popular band XOXO’s lead singer. She also shares in the student performers’ duty-bound lives: Behind the glamour, they are burdened with obligations to their communities that can require sacrifice of their personal happiness. Themes of responsibility, regret, and reconciliation weave through the intergenerational dynamics in Jenny’s family, adding dimension and depth. The author incorporates Korean honorifics to convey a conversational tone and signal dialogue occurring in both languages.
K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics.(Fiction. 13-17)