Author: Marie G. Lee
Jacket Artist: Joanne Pendola
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co
Published Date: 1992
Before I start reviewing this book I have to mention that I read a different edition of this book. The jacket cover is different, but I couldn’t find any pictures with the edition I have. The jacket artist is from the version I read. I don’t know if they are different.
Ellen Sung was born in Arkin, Minnesota and lives in Arkin, Minnesota. A small town in the northern part of the state. She is a high school senior determined to make the best grades possible to make it into Harvard. She has pressure from her parents to make A’s in every class and to be just like her older sister, Michelle. Jessie is Ellen’s best friend. They go to parties together and share everything. As the year goes on, Ellen becomes more and more aware of her differences. Arkin is filled with white scandinavian people. She on the other hand is Korean. Brad and Marsha are two of the most popular people in school. They both start making Ellen’s senior year of high school hell. They call her racial slurs and don’t want Tomper, her crush, to date her. At the beginning Ellen is afraid to voice her opinions about the racial slurs and just ignores them. As the year goes on, she starts to find more self confidence and starts speaking up. Tomper decides that he would rather be with Ellen then listen to Brad. Ellen and Tomper become very close. Throughout this whole time, her parents don’t know what is going on in school and are pressuring her to do well in classes and pick a college. Ellen finally confronts Marsha about the racial slurs. Unfortunately this ends up with Ellen in the hospital. Ellen finally decides which college to accept and leaves Arkin behind.
I truly can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book before. It was so great. Getting to know Ellen through the year and feeling everything that she goes through is hard to read. I’m very glad that she finally “found her voice” and spoke up. Throughout the book, we get a glimpse of Korean life from her parents and some culture. Kimchi sounds interesting, but I wouldn’t want to eat it. I don’t like spicy food! I think it really portrays how hard “foreigners” have to work to attain their goals in American. And they do it! I enjoyed the romance between Ellen and Tomper. I was really sad that they had to break up in the end. They seemed to really like each other. When I finished the book, I wanted to know what happened to them both. If they kept in touch and found each other again later in life. Although there wasn’t much action in the story I was totally surprised and upset when Marsha cracked a bottle over Ellen’s face at their last party. I wanted to reach through the pages and slap her silly! Yes, she had been drinking, but that gave her no right to do that. And for Ellen to not press charges. I felt so sad for Ellen. I understand where she is coming from though. It wouldn’t have changed Marsha at all. It might have given her a record though. But Ellen was classier then that. Her vengence will be gained by leaving and making something of herself. I just wish people like Marsha would get put in their place and stop being ignorant. In a perfect world…
This story was excellent. I recommend this from teens to adults to senior citizens. If this book can enlighten just one person, I think Ms. Lee will have done her job. This is a fast read and will get your emotions stirring!
Happy Reading (even if the material makes you sad)!