By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Patti Kim
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018
Ok Lee needs to make some money fast. His father is gone and there’s only his mother’s income to help pay the bills. And with his mother working multiple jobs, Ok knows he needs to do his part to help make ends meet.
He finds an opportunity to bring in some cash through the school talent show, which has a $100 prize. The only problem is he can’t sing, dance, or do anything else really. So Ok gets the bright idea to start a hair-braiding business. But sixth-grade girls can’t exactly pay him the big bucks. Then there’s Mickey McDonald — the girl who is different from everyone else, but doesn’t care. She has befriended Ok. There’s also bully Asa Banks, who has it out for Ok.
And to add to all of this, there’s a pushy deacon at their Korean church, who has started wooing Ok’s mom.
“I’m Ok” is a heartfelt story about a young boy doing his best to get by after the horrible tragedy of unexpectedly losing a parent. Rather than truly grieving, he becomes focused on taking care of himself and his mother — as that is what everyone at the funeral tells him he has to do now. Kim handles Ok’s circumstances well, balancing the occasional sadness he allows himself to feel with his obsession to make money as a way to cope with the loss. There are also uplifting moments throughout the story that will make readers smile, if not outright laugh.
Kim also doesn’t shy away from the reality of what family can be like in Ok’s memories of his father — showing that his father was not perfect. He drank and smoked and was known to get angry and yell. For a book geared toward middle school-aged students, there was a refreshing honesty to what families can be. Kim shows the good and bad, and how that doesn’t take away how much we may miss them when they’re gone.
By Kathy Wang
William Morrow, 2018
For many years, Stanley Huang has boasted that he is worth a small fortune. But now that he has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and it’s not looking good, his family is starting to get nervous.
For son Fred, an inheritance would help ease the disappointment of a mediocre professional career. Stanley’s daughter Kate is a middle manager at a prestigious tech company in Silicon Valley, supporting her two children and entrepreneur (read: unemployed) husband, so a little extra money would not be a bad thing. Stanley’s second wife Mary, who is 28 years younger, has spent their entire marriage devoted and taking care of his every whim, but her heart is no longer in it as caring for a dying old man is not easy. And then there’s Linda, Stanley’s first wife, who knows him better than anyone else and has worked hard for decades to ensure her children’s financial security.
“Family Trust” is a story of the complications that make up family. The Huangs face numerous challenges, including a possible new career opportunity for Fred, Kate realizing that her seemingly perfect life might not be so perfect after all, and Linda venturing into the dating world at the age of 72. As Stanley’s death becomes more imminent, they are faced with re-evaluating their lives to figure out what matters most to them.
The story is told from the different characters’ perspectives, and readers are able to see what they are thinking and how they feel and see how different that may be compared to how the other characters see them. Wang does a great job of showing the different dynamics between different characters, whether it was between siblings, parents and children, two spouses or two ex-spouses. She paints a realistic picture of how we may love our family and always be there for them, but we may not always like them.
By Piper J. Drake
Carina Press, 2015
Maylin Cheng’s younger sister An-Mei has gone missing during a trip to China and none of the authorities she turns to are taking her seriously. So as a last resort, she turns to Centurion Corporation, a team that works various jobs ranging from event and personal security, to jobs of the more mercenary nature.
When she asks for their help, team leader Gabriel Diaz initially turns her down. But when she is almost killed in a not-so-accidental hit-and-run accident, Gabriel and his team agree to take on Maylin’s case and help look for An-Mei.
As Centurion and Maylin work together to figure out what happened to her sister, who was in China for a business conference, they learn that this is more than a case of a missing woman. There are some major forces at play, who are willing to go great lengths to keep An-Mei where she is.
While “Hidden Impact” is a romance and we do see Maylin and Gabriel fall for each other, it is also a story about familial love and how far a person would go to save a loved one.
of how Maylin feels for Gabriel, her top priority is finding An-Mei. Throughout the story, we see how close Maylin and An-Mei are as sisters, especially after losing both their parents. They are all either of them has and that strong bond is how Maylin knew something was wrong with An-Mei in the first place.
Maylin is a strong character who may not have the military background Gabriel and his team have, but she is able to hold her own and finds her own way to contribute and bring her own strengths to the table — quite literally as she often uses her culinary background as a caterer to prepare meals for the team before and after missions.
Gabriel, alpha male that he is, balances out Maylin’s character well. They both have strong personalities, but they find a way to meet in the middle, which is important in any type of relationship.
Samantha can be reached at email@example.com.