Little, Brown. Mar. 2022. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780759554474.
Gr 5 Up–It is 1992, and the Rodney King verdict has just been returned. Riots explode across L.A. Told from Jordan’s middle school Korean American perspective, the book delves into issues like the challenges faced by immigrant families, systemic racism, and a flawed justice system. Jordan has been in some trouble at school, and he and his father are not speaking. His father leaves his gun behind when he goes out to board up their family’s store, so Jordan decides to take it to him for protection. He and his friend Mike head out into Koreatown with different agendas; Mike wants to retrieve something from his family’s restaurant, and Jordan is determined to keep his father safe. Jordan and Mike are often in trouble, but, luckily, the gun stays in its case in his backpack. Some strengths of this novel are Jordan’s close family and his relationship with his older sister Sarah. She may be successful in school, but she has her secrets, too. Despite disagreements, it is clear that the family cares for one another. This is a good middle grade historical fiction. Its main character is relatable, and the fast pace keeps readers engaged. Some young readers may not understand the trials of trying to find a pay phone, but as Cho’s author’s note points out, many of the conflicts in 1992 are still relevant today.
VERDICT A strong purchase for libraries with readers who enjoy recent historical books or have an interest in racial justice.–

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