How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy
1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Attend Korean church every week, no matter what.
3. Don't talk to boys. (They will distract you from your studies.)
4. Get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, Penn, MIT, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, Smith/Mount Holyoke/Bryn Mawr/Wellesley. Then get into Harvard or Yale Law School and/or Harvard or Yale Medical School.
5. Become a Korean doctor. When all else fails, marry a Korean doctor.
In Good Enough by Paula Yoo, Korean American Patti Yoon guides us through her struggle to be a P.K.D (Perfect Korean Daughter). Patti is in her senior year of high school and the pressure is on to ace all six of her AP classes, get at least a score of 2300 on the SATs, become concertmaster of the Connecticut All-State High School Orchestra for the fourth time in a row (this would mean that she is the best violinist in the state), graduate valedictorian, and get into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON (or HYP). Patti is also thinking of going to Julliard. Her parents would never even allow her to apply though. According to Patti's parents, music is waaay too risky - there is no security in a career in music. But Patti is a remarkable violinist who truly feels the music and plays with emotion. Playing the violin makes her feel safe and happy, and lately she has been feeling empty and confused from trying to get into HYP.
Then there's the guy Patti is falling hard for, Ben Wheeler, aka Cute Trumpet Guy (whose main instrument is actually the guitar!). Patti meets Ben during auditions for All-State Orchestra and he is a new transfer to her high school. They talk about music all the time, exchange mix CDs, and have really fun jam sessions together. Ben suggests Patti apply to Julliard without telling her parents.
Good Enough is a fairly predictable story. Teenage girl is stressed out by always trying to make her parents happy - at the risk of abandoning her real interests and at the risk of her own happiness. Plus, girl meets boy and falls for boy. And with lines like Suddenly all the chaos in the lobby silences, and everyone disappears, and we are the only ones in the room. There's this weird rushing sound in my ears, as if I'm falling off a cliff. the cheesiness factor gets pretty high in Patti's "love story." But aren't we all cheesy anyway when we really, really like someone? And Paula Yoo does throw us a couple of curve balls in the plot to make the story different. The narrative is in very simple, straightforward language, but things are kept interesting because Patti's story is also told through lists, recipes, SAT tips, sample SAT questions, and college essay questions.
I really enjoyed reading Good Enough. I enjoyed reading about Korean American culture. I enjoyed reading about Patti's and Ben's passion for music. I also enjoyed being introduced to new (to me) artists and songs! I found myself really caring about Patti, her family and friends, and her problems. While reading I could really feel the pressure Patti was experiencing. I literally winced or had real *facepalm* moments every time Patti made a mistake and/or embarrassed herself. Above all, I really rooted for her to excel in her studies and music AND have a social life.
Good Enough is a much more than good enough exploration of a young adult's enormous pressure from family, peers, and/or self to be the best; confusion about what one really wants in life; and confusion about the relationship between success and happiness. Can you have happiness without success and vice versa? The novel also perfectly captures the worries, sense of endless possibilities, uncertainties, and feeling of freedom from taking the SATs, taking senior year classes, applying to colleges, and choosing a college to go to. I highly recommend this book to high school seniors and to other teenagers who are curious about what the last year in high school is really like. Good Enough is not perfect, but it is sooo good.
Tarie is a reader, graduate student, editor, and English teacher in the Philippines. She blogs about literature for the young and young at heart at Into the Wardrobe.