Krista Kim-bap, by Angela Ahn (2018)

Contemporary Fiction
9-13
Krista Kim-bap, by Angela AhnLibrarians and writers often share the same circles, but it might surprise you to learn how many writers ARE librarians. Lewis Carroll, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson, Bill Richardson, Beverly Cleary, to name just a few. And now Angela Ahn joins this fine group. As she and I went to library school together at UBC, I was both delighted and secretly a bit apprehensive when her publisher, Second Story Press, agreed to provide me with a digital copy for review. What if I don’t like it? But I’m happy to report this is a truly enjoyable story that celebrates culture, friendship, and family. Krista Kim is almost 12 years old and lives with her Korean-Canadian mum, dad, and sister Tori in Vancouver. Her very best friend is a boy named Jason; they’ve been thick as thieves since the first day of preschool together. They eat lunch together, choose each other as partners in class, and have a standing date every Wednesday after school at Krista’s house where Jason dives into the fridge, hoping for leftover kimchi, to the annoyance of Krista’s traditional Grandma. When their teacher assigns the class a project on their heritage, it’s Jason, in fact, who suggests Korean food as a theme for Krista. Krista isn’t sure how she feels about her Korean-ness. Then she attends a classmate’s fancy party wearing a hanbok that Tori has altered for her, and it’s the envy of every girl there. Suddenly Krista is invited to spend lunch and recess with the girls, she starts experimenting with clothes and even makeup, and she doesn’t have as much time for Jason. But surely he understands, right? Ahn has written a lively and engaging story of a tween girl struggling to figure who she is and who her friends are, while dealing with shifting boundaries as relationships develop and change. She gives Krista a solid family foundation from which to understand and navigate the push and pull between her heritage and her Canadianness, an authentic reality that will resonate with young readers from all cultures who sometimes find themselves as “others.” The book pulls you right into Krista’s world – I could easily visualize her as a scrawny and energetic kid clad in worn sneakers and faded jeans, struggling to do what’s right even as she tries to figure out just what right is. Fun, funny, and occasionally touching. I look forward to more from my friend who is a teacher, mother, librarian, and now author. My thanks to Second Story Press for the digital reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35801649
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