12-year-old Jordan feels like he can't live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent's expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present.
As tensions escalate, Jordan's father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community.
The history of almost thirty years ago is especially poignant set against the continuing racial problems the US is facing. The Rodney King beating and its ramifications has come up in the news over the past two years after George Floyd's death, so young readers might have some passing knowledge of it and appreciate seeing how circumstances were different in 1992... and how they have regretfully stayed the same.
There have been a growing number of excellent books by authors of Asian descent about different facets of the Asian American experience likeYang's Front Desk, but it's good to see more books specifically about the Korean American experience, such as Kim's Stand Up, Yumi Chung, Yun's Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Park's Prarie Lotus, and Ahn's Krista Kim-Bap. Readers who enjoy recent historical books or have an interest in racial justice will find Troublemaker an intriguing title.
I would have liked to see more decade specific details, and more information about the historical event of the Rodney King beating and its fallout would help young readers who didn't live through this time period. Jordan's misbehavior didn't seem to have much of a reason behind it, and his motivation to take the gun to his father didn't quite click. This was a perfectly serviceable novel, but I had higher hopes for the setting and topic.