Review of Frankly in Love

Frankly in Love
by David Yoon
High School    Putnam    414 pp.    g
9/19    978-1-9848-1220-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1221-6    $10.99

High school senior Frank Li is the son of two first-generation Korean immigrant parents, and he knows that they have made sacrifices all their lives in order to give him opportunities. “Mom-n-Dad work at The Store every day, from morning to evening, on weekends, holidays, New Year’s Day, 365 days of every year without a single vacation for as long as me and Hanna have been alive.” He appreciates this, all while chafing at the binds of their expectations: ace the SATs; get into The Harvard; marry a Korean American girl. The setup of the story is pure romantic comedy: in order to keep his parents from finding out about his romance with white classmate and fellow nerd Brit Means, he fake-dates Joy Song, a girl from his parents’ Korean circle of friends. An unexpected change in the Lis’ lives forces Frank to grapple with what it means to really know a person, whether it be Brit, Joy, his best friend Q, or his father. Yoon writes in a lightly funny, self-deprecating, accessible voice; one that sounds like a contemporary teen (“Fuckin’ parents, man”) and reveals a deep understanding of bicultural complexities. As the novel faces issues of race and racism, culture, friendship, relationships (“Can you truly, truly say you love someone who’s always been held at arm’s length?”), and family, Yoon encourages readers to delve into issues of what it means to belong — and who in the end we would like to belong to, and with.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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