I'm Ok

288p. S. & S./Atheneum. Oct. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534419292.
Gr 5–7—When Ok's beloved father dies in a construction accident, his mother works several jobs but can't make ends meet. Determined to help pay their bills, Ok writes a business plan for a braiding business. He doesn't make much at first, but he gets the attention of lots of girls, including the retro-fashion obsessed Mickey McDonald. Ok thinks things are under control until the suspiciously nice Deacon Kohl from the First Korean Full Gospel Church begins courting his mom. Ok becomes convinced that no one needs him anymore and he hatches a plan to run away. Ultimately, Ok learns he's not alone, friendless, or unwanted. Things might not go the way he wants them to, but he's going to be fine. Ok's hilarious observations shine in this realistic fiction title about conformity, individuality, and loving people for who they are, not who you want them to be. The Korean American characters stand out as the most nuanced and compelling throughout. The culturally authentic details Ok shares in his first-person narration bring his relationship with his parents into sharp focus. Unfortunately, Ok's friends Mickey and Asa speak in pronounced dialects, perhaps to indicate their belonging to uneducated families. Consequently, their dialogue seems exaggerated and their character development suffers. Although the plot has a few logistical holes and the character development is uneven, Ok's sincerity will hook many young readers.
VERDICT The compelling, funny protagonist makes this a solid general purchase for school and public libraries.

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