Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Enough

Yoo, Paula. 2008. Good Enough.

Paula Yoo's debut novel Good Enough is more than good enough by my standards. Patti Yoon, our narrator, is always being told--directly or indirectly--that she's not good enough. Why be happy with being assistant concertmaster? If you're not in first place, you're a loser, right? Why be happy with anything other than the perfect 2400 for SAT's, right? 2010? Not good enough. Pressured to focus on the Ivy League colleges, Patti Yoon spends her life always always working towards her parents goals. That is until she meets "Cute Trumpet Guy" Ben Wheeler who shows her that there are other important things in life--friendship, fun, doing what you want to do, etc. Now, Patti is torn between striving to be THE best and trying to do her best.

The novel is about life and love (in this case unrequited) and friendship. It's a novel about being. It's a novel about being torn, not knowing exactly what you want. Patti's parents want her to go to HarvardYalePrinceton. It doesn't matter which school--as long as it's Ivy League. They don't necessarily care what profession she pursues either--so long as its practical. Music? Impractical! But Patti loves playing her violin, and quite a few people have told her she's gifted, talented. That she should be focusing on music. Her parents see her violin, her talent, as a hook to her getting into college. What does Patti want? That is the question at the heart of this book.

The novel focuses on a Korean-American family. (And on their Korean church, especially the youth group.) Patti and her family definitely experience some prejudice and discrimination. Patti just can't understand why though she suspects its the fact that she's the only Asian-American at her high school. The "mean" people, the bullies, will name call all the geeks, (Patti is among 'the geeks') but she's singled out by her race.
Oh my God. I'm not Japanese! Why is he even calling me a Jap? What does my ethnicity have to do with any of this? Why does Susan get to be called Queen of the Hobbits or dork or geek but I always get called Jap or Chink or gook? What does being Asian have to do with me being a nerd/geek/dork/physically uncoordinated loser? Why can't he just call me a geek, too? It would still hurt, but I'd take geek over gook any day. Because we all know geeks can change--just look at all those Hollywood romantic comedies where the girl geek takes off her glasses, unpins her ponytail, and turns into a princess. But I can't stop being Korean. I can't change my skin color. Even though I know he's wrong, Eric still makes me feel embarrassed for being Korean sometimes. (80)
Good Enough is a coming-of-age, finding-yourself novel, with plenty of heart and soul. Definitely recommended.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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