Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left his family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of 13, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon’s adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally, toward something resembling hope.
I received an ARC of this book from First Reads. This book will be available in January 2009.
This was a fast read, but an extremely depressing story. Joon is a teenage runaway in NYC in the 80’s who falls into prostitution, drugs, and alcohol. She is frequently beaten, homeless, and continues to make poor decisions. Aside from all that, the reader is still drawn to Joon and her story is hard to put down. You want to think that she will kick her drug habit, find a job and maybe even reconnect with her parents. I won’t spoil the storyline, but will say she does find some comfort by the end of the story in someone least expected. There is a hope for Joon at the end which is much needed. The story at times turned vulgar and gruesome. Joon confronts abortion as well as serious “cutting”. These were the most difficult for me, personally, to read through. One passage I connected with was this…He had no idea that grief was a reward. That it only came to those who were loyal, to those who loved more than they were capable of. The story was one that I wanted keep reading, although the storyline wasn’t enough to make it a fabulous read for me. The writer has a great talent for making the scenes believeable and visible to the reader. I appreciated the writer’s talent to tell Joon’s story in such a painful and poetic way. I do think this will be a much talked about book in 2009. I give this book 3 stars.