Review: Since You Asked

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Since You AskedSince You Asked by Maurene Goo
Published by Scholastic on June 25, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Pages: 262
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
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No, no one asked, but Holly Kim will tell you what she thinks anyway.

Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim is the copyeditor for her high school's newspaper. When she accidentally submits an article that rips everyone to shreds, she gets her own column and rants her way through the school year. Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine's Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family's traditional Korean values?

In this hilarious debut, Maurene Goo takes a fresh look at trying to fit in without conforming to what's considered "normal" in high school and how to manage parental expectations without losing one's individuality...or being driven insane.

The kids at school may not have asked for Holly to write a column in the school newspaper, but Since You Asked is just the sort of YA novel I have been asking for. I picked it up solely for the premise about a Korean-American girl, but found even more to enjoy in this fluffy, sweet read, set in a high school that’s much more like the one I went to back in the day. Maurene’s debut novel is a humorous delight and one that avoids typical YA tropes.

I don’t know about everyone else, but the schools that I went to, even my tiny liberal arts college in southern Indiana, were much more diverse than the average high school in YA books. In my high school especially, diversity was not something weird or really to be remarked upon; it was just how things were. Atlanta has a really diverse population, involving most of the groups you can think of. Finally, in Since You Asked, I’ve found a YA novel where the characters really are as diverse as I’m used to life being.

Even better, Goo doesn’t bring in one token diverse character or make an insanely big deal of the characters’ backgrounds. Obviously, culture can have an impact, but it’s clear that each family is different degrees of integrated into American ways. In just Holly’s close-knit group of four friends, Holly is Korean-American (her parents immigrated), David is half-Chinese and half-Irish, and Liz is Persian. Though Holly’s family is still very much into living in a Korean manner, David and Liz’s families are pretty American in their sensibilities for the most part.

The central issue of Since You Asked is actually the tension between Holly and her mother, between Holly’s American side and her Korean side. Holly’s parents fall into the typical roles of Korean parents that I’m so familiar with from kdrama: the mother very controlling and the father penny-pinching. Though Holly’s seriously irritated by her parents, there’s obviously a love and affection for her family. The struggle lies in the fact that Holly feels much more American than Korean, and her parents do not. As such, she finds the restrictions and traditions sometimes frustrating.

The characters are all just so much fun, and so much like real people. I loved the portrayal of friendship, with that super close group of four friends. How often in YA do you find a real friendship, and here Goo has written one with four people. There are some minor tensions, but mostly it’s a really healthy supportive friendship. There’s a bit of romance too, but not much. Some ships are open for boarding, but none really set sail. What romance there is largely consists of crushes, awkward flirting and secret admirers, so, you know, teen stuff.

The pace of Since You Asked stays pretty snappy, since it covers almost a full school year. The weak point for me was actually the newspaper thing which worked as the framing element. Holly’s articles really weren’t all that impressive to me, nor were they particularly interesting in comparison to her actual life.

If fluffy contemporary novels are something you enjoy, particularly when they step out of the standard formulas, then I highly recommend Since You Asked. I will definitely be tracking Maurene Goo’s career, because I like her style.

Favorite Quote:

“Everyone hates on Valentine’s Day, and I am the Queen Hatemonger of this day. Not only is it completely superficial and torturous for single people everywhere, I just find it so embarrassing. Flowers and declarations of love? WE’RE IN HIGH SCHOOL. Nobody really cares about anybody that much — it’s impossible. Our self-absorbed, pimply heads can’t really feel that strongly for anyone other than ourselves.”

14 responses to “Review: Since You Asked”

  1. Angie F. says:

    Hooray for diversity! You may have already convinced me to read this one, but then you mentioned the Persian best friend, and OMgosh I have a Persian best friend! Not that that’s a deciding factor in choosing a book, but it does make me happy!

    This one sounds really cute and fun, and like it stands out from the typical YA contemporary. I adore that quote, too! *adds to wishlist*
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Definitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia LondonMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Bahaha, though it maybe shouldn’t be a deciding factor, I’m sure I’d do the same thing if a blurb or review mentioned a Bengali best friend, so it happens. Oh, and I’d love books about a straight girl with a lesbian best friend, because hello that’s my life.

  2. Rachel says:

    At this point, it shouldn’t surprise me that we have totally different opinions on this one. To be honest, I didn’t even make it halfway until I put it down because I found the MC to be so annoying. Then again, I’m not really a fluff contemporary reader either (I mean, sometimes, but rarely). I’m glad you liked the diversity! That’s something I wouldn’t have been able to relate to in HS (seriously. NO diversity), but I like that it’s in the story and it’s not a huge deal because that really should be the norm these days.
    Rachel recently posted…I Am IndecisiveMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Bahaha, we are opposed on so much of this stuff. So strange.

      Also, I cannot imagine your high school. Even my college in small town Indiana had some diversity. O_o

  3. BookChic says:

    Great review! I absolutely loved this book too, and am looking forward to reading more from Goo!
    BookChic recently posted…Elephant of Surprise by Brent HartingerMy Profile

  4. Meg says:

    Uh, a girl who gets a platform to rant on? Already sold. Plus fluffy, sweet, diverse trope avoidance? YOU USE ALL THE ENTICING WORDS CHRISTINA.

    My high school was also incredibly diverse. (Sidebar: we also seemed to have an unusual lack of mean girls. Not that there weren’t any at all, but there wasn’t really an ass-kicking cheerleader squad or anything like that) so I keep reading some of these HS YAs like ‘For real? this is what high school is like for most people? Damn.’ The mean girl thing is kind of beside the point here, but The Boyfriend App is giving me those thoughts because holy shit those girls are mean.

    ANYWAY, very Christinguished review, (I had to) TBRed.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Awww, are you not liking The Boyfriend App? I don’t even remember the mean girl element to be honest. I didn’t have problems with specific mean girls in the perfect and popular sense EXCEPT when I was in elementary school. The most popular girls in fifth grade rode my bus and picked on me. Note: I was a second grader. Way to pick on somebody your own size. They definitely existed at my high school, I think, but they weren’t an issue by then because I was in upper level classes with the nerds. There was still a social hierarchy and some of the cool nerds were really mean and excluding, so I’m pretty sympathetic to that whole trope.

  5. Jenni says:

    This does sound really good. I like that it seems to have a big focus on family issues and the fluffiness is always welcomed with me. I am not familiar with this kdrama that you speak of, but I have been stalking some convos you have on Twitter about it and it sounds… different… LOL
    Jenni recently posted…Sex & Violence ReviewMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I really wish I could say you would love kdrama, but I don’t know… You like really violent, actiony stuff, so probably not. I mean, I think there are kdramas like that, but I totally watch the romancey ones.

  6. I’m with Rachel on this one. I went to a private school and there was no diversity.

    I’ve had this one on my wishlist since the first time I saw the cover. Not usually a big fan of faces on books but I just love this one. Glad it was cute!
    Dana (Little Lovely Books) recently posted…Right NowMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      This makes me sad. Diversity makes things more fun. Also, the boys are hot.

      This cover face has a lot of personality. So I see it.

  7. Ellis says:

    So you like her style, huh?

    Whoa that quote. No wonder you love her. She sounds like Bianca Piper with thirteen extra sides of snark. This quote reminds me so much of the time that Bianca says:
    “The truth was, I hated pretty much anything requiring school spirit, because, obviously, I had none.” Again, this sounds a little like you.

    (Quick aside. I had to look up the quote, so I type “The Duff” in the GR search bar and the first hit I get is Crime & Punishment. Whut.)

    Your high school sounds a lot like mine when it comes to diversity. Primary school was even more racially diverse. The struggle Holly has with her heritage reminds me a lot of some of my childhood friends. There are a lot of Moroccans in Belgium, especially in Antwerp. Some of them have very strict and extremely religious parents, others more Western-minded parental units. I’ve often seen it happen that they constantly need to negotiate their identity.

    That’s a shame about the school newspaper, especially when it’s the framing concept. Ah well, I’ll definitely give this one a try!
    Ellis recently posted…Rewind Review – Every Which WayMy Profile

  8. I love diversity in books! I also love it when an author can write about it without sounding like he/she knows absolutely nothing about it and is just doing it to show that they “get it”, which they obvs didn’t.

    Great job, Goo! And great review, Christina.

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