Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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Mun's first novel is a 1980s urban odyssey in which Joon-Mee, a 12-year-old Korean-American, leaves her troubled Bronx family for the life of a New York City runaway. The novel follows Joon over six years, as she lives in a homeless shelter, finds work as an underage escort and a streetwalker, succumbs to drug addiction and petty crime, then tries to turn it all around. Along the way we meet a cast of addicts, grifters and homeless people, including Wink, a boisterous but vulnerable young street veteran ("I didn't even know they had boy prostitutes"); Knowledge, a friend who ropes Joon into helping steal her family's Christmas tree; and Benny, a drugged-up orderly and self-destructive love interest. Mun is careful not to lean on the '80s ambience, and Joon's voice, purged of self-pity, sounds clear and strong on every page. Individual scenes, including Joon's first john, her interview with an antagonistic employment counselor and her climactic encounter with a good-hearted former neighbor, are wonderfully written. Unfortunately, the novel's episodic structure prevents Joon's story from building to anything greater than its parts. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Her father has deserted the family and her mother is in shock, so 13-year-old Korean American Joon heads for the streets. A hot first novel from a Pushcart Prize winner; with a national tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

This first novel covers about five years in the life of Korean American teenager Joon. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Joon runs away from home at age 13 after her mother self-destructs when she is abandoned by her husband. The story of Joon's descent into heroin addiction and prostitution on the streets of New York is grim but absolutely authentic. And as Joon witnesses the disintegration of some of her friends, the reader gets the feeling that she will be able to save herself. Three key scenes late in the book provide gripping climaxes of different sorts. One is an extended sequence in which Joon tries to sell Avon door to door to people who are mentally ill. Another is a chilling, drug-induced interlude with a boyfriend who cuts Joon. The last is a desperate encounter at an employment agency, where Joon must decide whether she's ready to stop running. Joon's wish to belong somewhere is reminiscent of the teenage girl's search for a home in Janet Fitch's White Oleander. A haunting debut by an author who made her own journey from runaway to writer; recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/08.]--Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* My mom turned crazy the night my father left for good, states Joon, the unflinching 13-year-old narrator in Mun's explosive first novel. The neglected only child of Korean immigrants soon runs away from her severely depressed mother and their 1980s Bronx home. Finding refuge in a shelter, Joon delicately negotiates a tempestuous alliance with a streetwise girl named Knowledge and a boy hustler called Wink. Pliant, watchful, and quietly courageous, Joon is fascinated by the struggling people she meets, from junkies to sex workers, drunks, thieves, and wackos. But for all the betrayals, beatings, and risky sex she endures; the heroin habit she acquires; and the chaos and terror of homelessness, jail, hunger, precarious jobs, and suicidal interludes, Joon remains inviolable, kind, and determined. Mun's gritty and empathic coming-of-age tale confronts the madness that lurks on the periphery of lust and love, the poison of racism, the suffering of the unloved, and the fierce survival instincts, adaptability, and radiance of young people. There is nothing simplistic or sensationalized here as Mun, a writer of gravitas, portrays the dispossessed and the cast-out, reminding us how quickly things can go disastrously wrong, how tough it is to live outside the margins.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2008 Booklist