Review of Troublemaker

Troublemaker Troublemaker
by John Cho with Sarah Suk
Intermediate, Middle School    Little, Brown    224 pp.   g
3/22    978-0-7595-5447-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7595-5445-0    $9.99

Cho’s riveting work of historical fiction begins on April 29, 1992, when four Los Angeles police officers are acquitted in the brutal beating of a Black man, Rodney King. Twelve-year-old Jordan Park’s parents close their liquor store early, bracing for the unrest to come. They expect Koreatown to be targeted by protesters since, two weeks after television footage showed King being beaten, a fifteen-year-old Black girl, Latasha Harlins, was shot and killed by a Korean American store owner. With his parents busy at the store, there’s no time for Jordan to tell them that he’s been suspended from school for cheating on a ­Spanish quiz (again). Having had an argument with his father and been told he is a disappointment, Jordan tries to atone by setting off on a dangerous and fraught journey: bringing his father a gun to use for self-defense, if necessary. ­Jordan’s first-person narrative offers a fresh Korean ­American perspective on what were then called the L.A. Riots; on racism; and on immigration. This debut middle-grade novel by Cho, well known for his acting work, achieves a complexity of theme that is welcome for this audience. It’s an important, even profound, story, yet related with a light touch. Jordan’s journey will have readers following right alongside him as he navigates the vicissitudes of this moment in history and his place in his family. Back matter includes an extensive and informative author’s note.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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