BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung [in Shelf Awareness]

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung on Bookdragon via Shelf AwarenessPrimrose Heights is home to only three Asian Americans: 12-year-old Chloe Cho and her parents. In spite of Chloe’s growing interest in her Korean heritage, her astrophysicist mother and fish store-owner father remain consistently mum about the family’s past, always hedging with excuses like “Talking about Korea … it’s complicated, and painful.” Chloe turns to the Internet to learn to make Korean food (her dumplings resemble “mutant baby squirrels”) and to download the latest K-pop.

Culturally hungry, Chloe is thrilled to learn her new seventh-grade social studies teacher is also Korean American. But when Ms. Lee’s first assignment is to share an old family story, Chloe’s father is forced to be “a primary source” and reveals a tragedy about a Korean great-uncle. Chloe – gratefully relieved – transcribes the story, only to be shocked when accusations of plagiarism besmirch her model-student reputation, resulting in her first F ever. Finally, her parents must divulge the truth, causing Chloe’s head to “pop like a supercheap balloon.” Struggling with this surreal new revelation, Chloe aims her whip-smart sarcasm at the casual racism all around, including her orchestra teacher who insistently calls her a famous Asian violinist’s name, and the assistant principal who expects only “compliance.” Here’s how a straight-A-first-chair-violinist becomes a formidable Unidentified Suburban Object to contend with!

Seamlessly blending realism and out-of-this-world fantasy with clever snark and easy humor, Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities) also manages to infuse thought-provoking statements about identity, race and living life as the only and “other” – or, as Chloe proudly insists, “waving my freak flag solo.” Go, Chloe, go!

Discover: Mike Jung’s second rollicking middle-grade novel tackles the perils of self-discovery with Korean dumplings, koi fish, sci-fi novels and plenty of laughter and tears.

Review: “Children’s & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, April 29, 2016

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2016


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