I started reading Since You Asked by Maurene Goo because, like main character Holly Kim, I went to high school in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach. I can’t think of very many books set there!
Although I would have liked more local details, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this humorous debut novel, because Goo does such a good job of evoking a high school milieu that could be anywhere. Specifically, she captures the tension between cliques and individuals.
Holly and her three best friends have made it through freshman year by keeping a low profile, and she expects the same strategy to work as a sophomore. No such luck. When a satiric school newspaper column that she penned as a joke is mistakenly published, everyone on campus knows who she is. Not only that, she is persuaded by the journalism advisor to write an opinion column (which we get to read, interspersed with the narrative).
Another reason to appreciate this book is Goo’s convincing portrayal of the sometimes tense, but ultimately understanding relationship between Holly and her more traditional Korean American parents. Tired of stricter rules than her peers live under, Holly defiantly sneaks off to a beach party in L.A., with disastrous results.
Holly and her friends are interesting, well-rounded characters. I’m looking forward to reading what Maurene Goo writes next. In the meantime, come see her at Literary Orange on April 5, 2014.