By Samantha Pak
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines
By Jennifer J. Chow
Things are going well for Mimi Lee. Her pet-grooming business is thriving, things with her boyfriend Josh are going well, and she’s got a sassy and savvy cat who talks. So when Mimi stops by the elementary school, where her sister works, all she’s expecting is a fun girls’ night with Alice. The last thing she expects is a murder investigation. But that’s exactly what happens when Mimi and Alice discover Helen Reed, a fellow teacher at the school, slumped over in her car.
As the last person to see Helen alive, the police are looking at Alice as the prime suspect. So Mimi knows she has to try and clear her little sister’s name—especially with one Det. Brown (who had pegged Mimi as a suspect in a previous homicide case) leading the case. As she snoops around, Mimi discovers a long list of suspects. With the help of Marshmallow, the aforementioned talking cat, and a cute kitten named Nimbus who appears on the scene, Mimi needs to work fast to get to the bottom of the case.
In this second installment of the Sassy Cat mystery series, it’s all about Mimi and her sister. Chow does a great job with the dynamics between the two women, especially with Mimi as the older sister. We see the lengths Mimi would go to protect Alice. This made me think about my relationship with my own sister, as well as the dynamics between other sets of sisters I know, and whether any of us would do what Mimi does. Obviously, the circumstances in this story are exaggerated, but I do believe we would do what we could to be there for each other.
In addition, readers get to see how Mimi and Marshmallow’s relationship has progressed. It’s fun to see how they’ve settled with each other and work together on the case. It’s got me looking forward to seeing what type of adventures the duo will get into in the future.
By Mary H.K. Choi
Simon & Schuster Books, 2021
Sisters Jayne and June Baek couldn’t be more different. Three years older, June is the classic firstborn with a well-paying job in finance and a fancy but soulless apartment (according to Jayne). And if you were to ask June, Jayne is emotionally stunted, self-obsessed, has horrible taste in men, needs to get her life together, and needs to stop wasting their parents’ money.
The pair used to be inseparable but now, even after moving from Seoul, to San Antonio, Texas, to New York together, they barely know how to act around each other.
But then, June gets cancer and Jayne is the only one who can help her.
All of a sudden, the two sisters who haven’t really spoken in years are thrown together by circumstance and have to figure out how to be sisters again. Throw in a case of swapping identities and what you get is a funny, yet emotional story about what it means to be family.
“Yolk” is told from Jayne’s perspective and as a fellow younger sister, I related to her on many levels—from her insecurities about having a more-successful sister, to wanting to keep things from June because she’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to be judged. There were also little things like how June would tell (not ask) Jayne to do things for her and Jayne would automatically do it, like get her sister a glass of water. That’s definitely something that happens with me and my sister.
One thing I especially appreciated about “Yolk” and the sisters’ relationship was how June’s illness may have had Jayne worried and scared for her sister, but it didn’t stop her from yelling at June and picking fights with her. Getting sick can change how others may see and treat you so seeing Jayne sometimes forget about that and not give June any special treatment felt realistic, given the fact that they’d been estranged for a few years.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
By Joan He
Roaring Brook Press, 2021
For three years, Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island, with no memory of how she got there or her life before she arrived. The only thing she does know is that she has a sister named Kay—somewhere out in the world—and Cee needs to find her.
Elsewhere is Kasey Mizuhara, a 16-year-old STEM prodigy. She lives in an eco-city, built for people who protected the planet but now needs protection from the natural disasters that are on the rise, thanks to climate change. In exchange, residents have to spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods and conduct their business virtually to reduce their environmental footprint.
Introverted Kasey doesn’t mind the lifestyle, but her more extroverted sister Celia would much rather spend time in the outside world. The last thing anyone would have expected, though, was for Celia to take a boat out to sea and never return. After three months, Kasey finally gives up hope, accepting that her sister must be dead. But this doesn’t stop Kasey from retracing Celia’s last steps. And that journey Kasey goes on is filled with twists that will take readers by surprise at each turn.
“The Ones” is a story about the love between two sisters and the lengths they will go to find each other. He does a great job of showing that you don’t have to always agree with someone or have everything in common with them in order to have a strong bond. Cee and Kasey are two very different people but their love is so strong, they would cross an entire ocean for each other.
In addition to the two sisters’ bond, there’s the science fiction side of the story. While things definitely lean toward the fictional, the reason they exist in He’s universe—climate change and the damage humans have wrought on this planet—is very realistic. The measures taken here may be extreme but with crazy heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and now-annual wildfire seasons, stasis pods and eco-cities may not seem so far off, after all. ν
Samantha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org