My absolute favorite part of this book is Valerie’s relationship with her grandmother. It’s so relatable. I love how Valerie’s grandma is the person that doesn’t judge her, encourages her, and reminds her of her dreams. There aren’t a lot of stories that examine this special bond and it was so nice to see that kind of love reflected here. The stress Valerie feels in trying to beat time by being successful as fast as possible for the sake of her grandma is both heart wrenching and familiar. Overall, the theme of family expectations is explored thoroughly in this novel, and Suk does a great job at shining a light on where they can come from and creating empathy for all involved.
I found Wes’ voice in particular to be really compelling— probably because he’s honest with himself in ways that Valerie isn’t. He’s also a great mirror to her, because his new and unexpected presence makes Valerie really take a look at herself and what she’s doing. Along those lines, all of the characters are presented as good people who on occasion make bad choices. In other words, everyone is guilty of something in this book, which makes them feel like real people. In the actual world, no one is perfect, and Suk’s characters represent that. They’re not idealized versions of people. They’re people.
Aside from all that, this book has been perfectly plotted. Every single thread ties up in a bow in the end, making the conclusion satisfying, but also a little dry. While I appreciate that there is a payoff for everything and can tell how much thought the author has put into this, I was missing a bit of spontaneity in the writing. Because of this, the book starts off slow, but recovers in the last third with a faster and exciting pace.
That being said, MADE IN KOREA is an enjoyable read that is sweet, relatable, and perfect for summer! The gorgeous cover is reason enough to pick it up.