Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jenn's Review: Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

Summary: If Albert Kim has learned one thing in his tragic adolescence, it's that God (probably a sadistic teenaged alien) does not want him to succeed at Bern High. By the end of sophomore year, Al is so tired of humiliation that he's chosen to just forget girls and high school society in general, and enjoy the Zen-like detachment that comes from being an intentional loser.

Then he meets Mia Stone, and all the repressed hormones come flooding back. Mia, his co-worker at the Bern Inn, is adorable, popular, and most intimidatingly, the ex- long-term girlfriend of Ivy-bound, muscle-bound king of BHS and world class jerk, Ryan Stackhouse. But -- chalk it up to the magic of Al's inner beauty -- by the end of a summer vacuuming hotel rooms and goofing off together, he and Mia are officially "something."

Albert barely has time to ponder this miracle before the bomb drops: Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer, and he needs Mia's support, i.e. constant companionship. True, he's lost weight and he's getting radiation, but that doesn't make him any less of a jerk. And to Albert, it couldn't be more apparent that Ryan is using his cancer to steal Mia back. With the whole town rallying behind Ryan like he's a fallen hero, and Mia emotionally confused and worried for Ryan, Al's bid for love is not a popular campaign. In fact, it's exactly like driving the wrong way on a five-lane highway.

Review: This is the first novel I have read by David Yoo and what a wonderful discovery! It was really refreshing to read a story of male teenage angst written by a male author. His treatment of Asian stereotypes is witty and rings of truth (as a former teacher, I saw my share of Alberts) and his portrayal of the high school loner is insightful.

I am usually squeamish watching and even reading about someone else's embarrassing moment, but this wasn't an issue with this book (though there were plenty of embarrassing moments to be had) because Yoo gives Albert a sense of humor about his situation and as well as an astonishing ironic awareness. I was routing for Albert from his most embarrassing moments, to his weird moments, and yes, even in his stalkerish moments. Along his journey Albert emerges from the protective cocoon he's built for himself only to find that participating in his own life can be hard, but well worth it... and so is the book.

This book was funny, clever, and a beautiful story about self discovery and teenaged romance. I highly recommend it, and in the mean time I might just go back and check out his first novel, Girls for Breakfast.



tinylittlelibrarian January 6, 2009 at 10:03 PM  

I've been wondering about him ever since Girls for Breakfast came out...I may have to give him a shot.

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