In high school, a Chinese-Canadian girl I knew proudly brought home a term report card with 98% in French, the highest mark out of anyone in her class. Far from impressed, her father said, "What happened to the other 2 percent?" While my own parents wouldn't have said something so gauche, neither would they have acknowledged my report card full of A's with anything more than a nod and a grimace, implying that this wasn't an extraordinary accomplishment but rather an expected one.
Thus I could definitely relate to the protagonist in Paula Yoo's semi-autobiographical novel, Good Enough. Patti Yoon is an SAT vocabulary-memorizing, homework-doing, violin-playing, standardized test-taking machine enduring the stress of senior year and the incredible pressure put on her by her Korean parents. As if worrying about getting into an Ivy League college and upping her SAT scores weren't enough, Patti finds herself increasingly attracted to a cute trumpet player in the all-state orchestra and questioning the path her parents have laid out for her. Should she pursue what makes her happy or what pleases her family, and can those two options ever intersect? Will she ever be "good enough"?
Yoo breathes life into the story with sharp observations and laugh-out-loud humour. Overachievers and survivors of Asian Parent Syndrome alike will be all too familiar with the minute details of Patti's life, including:
- the hyper-competitive frenemies who are gunning for or envious of your top grade/band chair/college acceptance letter
- the pressure to be a lawyer or doctor
- the pressure to marry a lawyer or doctor
- the no-partying, no-dating, all-studying lifestyle
- the mixture of yearning and disdain directed at the pretty popular cheerleader type in high school
P.S. For more on author Paula Yoo, check out this great interview I stumbled across.