Good Enough by Paula Yoo 2008
IQ "So if you keep thinking about a special person or event long enough, it will be impossible to erase that memory. You'll be stuck with the memory for the rest of your life. I guess you have to be careful about what you think is important in your life." Patti pg. 135
Above the IQ is this explanation "When I took AP honors biology in tenth grade, we learned about how memory works and how the capacity for long-term memory is endless, whether you memorized the information five minutes ago or five years ago. But when it came to remembering important events in your life, those memories would be sent to the part of the brain called the hippocampus. After time, those memories would be transferred to the neocrotex for permanent storage." Interesting facts like these are interspersed throughout Good Enough and they all fit in the context of the story which make the book very enjoyable. Patti Yoon is a senior in high school and this is supposed to be HER best year, the year she gets into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON and is officially the PKD (Perfect Korean Daughter). She seems to be off to a rough start, for the first time since she was a freshman, she isn't violin concertmaster for All-State. Also, she doesn't get a perfect score on the SAT, she doesn't even earn 2300 or above, her score is not good enough. To top it all off, Patti is starting to question being a PKD especially after she meets Cute Trumpet Guy. He (along with her violin teacher) are encouraging her to apply to music schools, Patti has never even considered playing the violin after high school. She doesn't want to stop playing, but she knows her parents would not be happy if she went to Julliard or another school that specialized in the arts and focused solely on music. Patti doesn't know what she wants for her future or who she wants to be; her own person or a PKD?
Patti is a sarcastic and hilarious narrator. The book opens up with some band jokes at the expense of the viola and my favorite is:
Q: "You're lost in the woods and meet a pink elephant and a good viola player. Who do you ask for directions?
A: The pink elephant-a good viola player is just a figment of your imagination."
The chapter that this joke is in is called Pink Elephants. Each chapter has a clever title that ties into the book in obvious and not so obvious ways. Patti is considered a nerd. She has glasses and thinks she's fat with a "pudgy Korean face". She's really smart and she actually proves that some of the knowledge you learn in school does apply in real life, but not in a tedious way. She applies math equations and SAT words in fresh, funny situations. Good Enough also contains Korean recipes with Spam. I never knew that Koreans were so into Spam, but according to Patti (who gives the reader the stats to back her up) when the Americans brought Spam to Korea during the Korean War (from 1950-1953), the Koreans tried it and loved it. "Outside of the United States, Korea eats more Spam than any other country in the world. It's even considered a very classy gift to give to your loved ones over the holidays." The Spam recipes are different to say the least and I enjoyed reading about various Korean dishes. The book isn't all jokes and humor, there are very real incidents of racism. Patti is the only Asian student at her high school and she gets called 'Jap', 'chink' or 'gook'. Not only are these names derogatory, but Patti's Korean but no one cares to make the distinction! I would have liked to see Patti stand up for herself a little more, because the few times she does she's awesome and really makes a point! Patti isn't very rebellious, her few small acts of rebellion are relatively harmless but it's good to see her start to live. Her descriptions of how happy and peaceful she feels when she plays the violin are very descriptive and I imagine many people who love to play their instrument will be able to really connect to how Patti feels, even I was and I don't play anything! She's describing how you feel when you're doing something you love.
I didn't like Cute Trumpet Guy. But then again I did. I liked him because he was nice to Patti, he looked past her seemingly "nerd" exterior. They jam together which is very cute. Not only does Cute Trumpet Guy (whose name is actually Ben) play the trumpet, but he also plays the guitar. He invites Patti to play her violin with his guitar in his garage and they rock out. Ben listens to Patti and encourages her to check out Julliard and follow her own dreams. However, I think he led her on for too long. A guy isn't as clueless as he seemed to be. Out of all the characters, he was the most unrealistic. However, I enjoyed reading about all the other characters, especially the Korean church youth group. They all had funny stories and they were a very sweet, close knit group dealing with all the pressures their Korean parents placed on them (apparently, Korean church's sole purpose is for parents to brag about their children to other church members). In reading this book I was introduced to some rock bands and classical pieces that I hadn't heard of (I'm listening to them as I write this review!) and I like them.
Good Enough is ultimately about learning that happiness and success are not the same thing and that it's ok to have your own dreams, ask questions and be yourself. Don't just sit back and let your parents plan your future without asking questions. Also, it asks the question 'Are you overextending yourself? Too much unnecessary stress?', Patti puts 110% in everything she does to please her parents and I liked seeing her grow and become her own person. It has a good mix of humor and seriousness. The ending is good, wrapped up neatly but it's not fake or forced, it all flows smoothly. I highly recommend this book, Good Enough is more than good! (haha couldn't resist that little joke). High school and up.
PS I was saddened that Patti doesn't enjoy playing my sport, field hockey :( Oh, Paula Yoo why couldn't it have been lacrosse or floor hockey? LOL. Oh well, I enjoyed reading a book about someone who hated it, made me laugh.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publishing house, HarperCollins. Thanks Jana!