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Stand Up, Yumi Chung!: 04/18/20

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim is a contemporary middle grade novel set in the Korea Town district of Los Angeles. Yumi's family runs a Korean BBQ and as the younger daughter, she's struggling to be her own authentic self when everything she does is compared against her older sister's outstanding accomplishments.

Our first glimpse of Yumi is in the hair salon. She wants a pixie cut. Her mother and the hairdresser override her and stick her with yet another perm. She uses her time under the perm machine to think up new jokes for her comedy routine. Her passion in life is stand-up and sketch comedy. But she knows she's expected to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Money is tight at home. Recent building projects on the outskirts of the neighborhood have left the older core with dwindling customers. Plus Yumi's parents have spent tons of money on medical school tuition the older sister, cram school and private school tuition for Yumi.

Yumi, though, has found a temporary escape in the form of a summer comedy camp. There's just one problem, the teacher thinks she's a Japanese American kid named Kay Nakamura. When she fails to correct the teacher on the first day, she runs with it.

The remainder of the novel is Yumi trying to find the right balance between following her passion and being a daughter her parents are proud of. In the middle of all of that she learns just how bad things really are for her parents, and how genuinely unhappy her sister is. The confrontation between Yumi and her sister reminds me of a similar scene in the anime/manga Silver Spoon.

Yumi thankfully has a tenacity similar to Mia Tang in Front Desk (2018). She's a delightful and relatable main character. I would love to see the further adventures of Yumi and her family. Regardless, I will definitely read future novels by Jessica Kim.

Five stars

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