A humorous, debut novel about a Korean-American teenager who accidentally lands her own column in her high school newspaper, and proceeds to rant her way through the school year while struggling to reconcile the traditional Korean values of her parents with contemporary American culture.
Since You AskedFeatured
The kids at school may not have asked for Holly to write a column in the school newspaper, but Since You Asked is just the sort of YA novel I have been asking for. I picked it up solely for the premise about a Korean-American girl, but found even more to enjoy in this fluffy, sweet read, set in a high school that's much more like the one I went to back in the day. Maurene's debut novel is a humorous delight and one that avoids typical YA tropes.
I don't know about everyone else, but the schools that I went to, even my tiny liberal arts college in southern Indiana, were much more diverse than the average high school in YA books. In my high school especially, diversity was not something weird or really to be remarked upon; it was just how things were. Atlanta has a really diverse population, involving most of the groups you can think of. Finally, in Since You Asked, I've found a YA novel where the characters really are as diverse as I'm used to life being.
Even better, Goo doesn't bring in one token diverse character or make an insanely big deal of the characters' backgrounds. Obviously, culture can have an impact, but it's clear that each family is different degrees of integrated into American ways. In just Holly's close-knit group of four friends, Holly is Korean-American (her parents immigrated), David is half-Chinese and half-Irish, and Liz is Persian. Though Holly's family is still very much into living in a Korean manner, David and Liz's families are pretty American in their sensibilities for the most part.
The central issue of Since You Asked is actually the tension between Holly and her mother, between Holly's American side and her Korean side. Holly's parents fall into the typical roles of Korean parents that I'm so familiar with from kdrama: the mother very controlling and the father penny-pinching. Though Holly's seriously irritated by her parents, there's obviously a love and affection for her family. The struggle lies in the fact that Holly feels much more American than Korean, and her parents do not. As such, she finds the restrictions and traditions sometimes frustrating.
The characters are all just so much fun, and so much like real people. I loved the portrayal of friendship, with that super close group of four friends. How often in YA do you find a real friendship, and here Goo has written one with four people. There are some minor tensions, but mostly it's a really healthy supportive friendship. There's a bit of romance too, but not much. Some ships are open for boarding, but none really set sail. What romance there is largely consists of crushes, awkward flirting and secret admirers, so, you know, teen stuff.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The pace of Since You Asked stays pretty snappy, since it covers almost a full school year. The weak point for me was actually the newspaper thing which worked as the framing element. Holly's articles really weren't all that impressive to me, nor were they particularly interesting in comparison to her actual life.
The Final Verdict:
If fluffy contemporary novels are something you enjoy, particularly when they step out of the standard formulas, then I highly recommend Since You Asked. I will definitely be tracking Maurene Goo's career, because I like her style.