Finding Junie Kim

HarperCollins/Harper. May 2021. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062987983.
Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Korean American Junie Kim’s first morning of seventh grade turns into a police scene when racist graffiti is discovered in the school gym. Junie has been bullied by a racist white boy who calls her hateful names. Back in 1950, Korean children Doha and Jinjoo endure a brutal civil war. The book moves back and forth between then and now, illustrating the evils and effects of war and racism. In this personal narrative inspired by the author’s mother’s life, Oh writes about the ravages of war and the depths of Junie’s depression with unflinching honesty. She seamlessly provides insight into Korean history and culture for the unintroduced and captures the human condition during wartime through frank portrayals of Junie’s modern-day struggles. The portions of the book dealing with the Korean War move more swiftly, but Junie’s journey out of depression—through friends, family, therapy, and the discovery of her special talent—still develops poignantly.
VERDICT A first purchase for middle school and upper elementary collections, Oh’s powerful novel sheds light on the devastating effect racism can have on mental health, and tells a history often overlooked.

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