“Good Enough” by Paula Yoo

12 Aug


I thoroughly enjoyed "Good Enough," which tells the story of high school senior Patti Yoon. Patti, who is Korean-American, is an exceptional violinist and a straight-A student. She's also got a killer sense of humor (you know, the bone dry, cynical, self-deprecating wit that absolutely slays me). As you might imagine, being the All-State concertmaster for the previous three years, taking all AP classes, and spending free time at Korean church youth group doesn't exactly make Patti the most popular girl in school. Still, she seems to have made peace with her low standing in the high school hierarchy, as she's totally focused on acing her makeup SATs, maintaining her sky high GPA, and getting into — as her mom calls it in one hushed breath — HarvardPrincetonYale.

Yes, as you might have guessed, Patti's first-generation parents place a heavy emphasis on Patti's academic success. What Patti sees as an almost suffocating pressure her parents view as mere support and encouragement. Patti's future is the most important thing in the world to them, and if getting her into an Ivy League school means constantly nagging her about SAT vocabulary words and practice tests and such, then so be it. The thing is, Patti has internalized her folks' high expectations, and she's just about the most dedicated, conscientious student around. It's only when Patti befriends a cute, rock-loving classmate that she takes her first small steps away from the rigid structure of her life and toward freedom and even rebellion. Before long, Patti is regularly sneaking off to Ben's house for jam sessions, ducking out of a church lock-in to hit a punk show, and even secretly sending an application off to (gasp!) Julliard, NYC's famous music school.

Besides providing candid insight into a Korean-American household, "Good Enough" is smart, charming, realistic without being overly gritty or heavy-handed, and just so much fun. I loved Patti's character, from her amazingly true teen voice to the dignified, respectful way she starts to challenge her parents' expectations and fulfill her own dreams. Even Patti's overachieving youth group pals are revealed as real kids with their own quirks. "Good Enough" is a lively, quick read, and I recommend it for all middle school girls. It's also a great choice for those interested in music, as Patti's descriptions of being transported away while playing her violin should be warmly received by all you budding musicians out there. (And if you like that aspect of the novel, please check out Virginia Euwer Wolff's "Mozart Season" for another peak into a violinist's world.) I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did!

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Posted by on August 12, 2008 in Uncategorized


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