Good Enough

Good Enough

4.5 21
by Paula Yoo

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How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.3. Don't talk to boys.*

Patti's parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her

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How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.3. Don't talk to boys.*

Patti's parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti's discovering that there's more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there's Cute Trumpet Guy. He's funny, he's talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti's favorite band. Then, of course, there's her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn't want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

• Boys will distract you from your studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Patty's immigrant parents expect her to be a "P.K.D" (perfect Korean daughter), which means that between AP classes, violin, church and Ivy League applications, Patty gets little time-and less encouragement-to figure out what she wants for herself. When she develops a crush on a new boy and forms a friendship with him, her romantic feelings go unrequited but he does show her to think more broadly, encouraging her to take her violin teacher's advice and apply to Juilliard (her parents insist there is "no security in music"). While Patty is full-out nerdy, she has a great sense of humor, shown through interludes in which she posits her dilemmas as SAT questions or lists "how not to be a P.K.D.": "Instead of translating Vergil's Aeneid you spend two hours talking on the phone with Susan about how cute Ben is." Yoo (The Sammy Lee Story) writes with particular fluency of Patty's love of music. Readers will appreciate, too, that the author does not demonize Patty's high-pressure parents: they may bark "HarvardYalePrinceton" at her but their love is never in doubt. An overneat ending doesn't significantly detract from a funny story that will hit home for many readers. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)

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Patti Yoon is expecting to be named to the Connecticut All State High School Orchestra first chair All-State Concertmaster for the fourth year in a row when she instead meets Cute Trumpet Guy. Hormones kick in, fluster follows and all she can think about are the green-olive eyes of Cute Trumpet Guy. Although Patti makes the orchestra, she is not first concertmaster as she had hoped or as her parents had expected. She is caught in between expectations--the expectations she sets for herself and the expectations her parents have set for her. She loves music, her father loves math. As she muddles through the year, she keeps lists: lists of how to make her parents happy, study tips for the SAT, how to succeed at college interviews and recipes for her mother's Korean Spam meals. Patti's love of music grows and expands in more diverse ways along with her interest in Cute Trumpet Guy, Ben Wheeler, who turns out to be the new guy in her high school class. Her friendship with him helps Patti develop more independence and confidence. But the friendship also leads her into disobeying her parents by going out with him when she is supposed to be with her church youth group. Caught between cultures, Patti must also learn to navigate her own dreams and aspirations alongside the expectations of others. The author reflects on the hard lessons of adolescence--maneuvering between childhood and adulthood and developing a sense of self--with humor and authenticity. Age Range: Ages 12 to 15. REVIEWER: Janis Flint-Ferguson (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
"Man jok mot hae. Not good enough." That is something Patti hears frequently from her Korean-American parents, despite her stellar grades, amazing violin skills, and general "good girl" status. Patti's parents expect her to get into "HARVARDYALEPRINCETON." Scoring less than 2300 on her SATs and being assistant concertmaster—when she has been concertmaster for the three prior years—is simply not good enough. When Patti befriends Cute Trumpet Guy, she is distracted from her parents' goals with rock music, concerts, and improvisational jam sessions. With him, she realizes that life has more to offer than preparing for Ivy League schools. While learning to take a stand—not against her parents, but for herself—Patti also develops a new respect and appreciation for her parents. She begins to understand why they push her so hard to succeed. All the book has an all-too-familiar Asian American plot, Yoo's story surmounts this fault by presenting a lovable main character with a superb voice. Sometimes hysterical, sometimes thoughtful, and always witty, Yoo's entertaining novel captures the struggles of being a teen, particularly a Korean-American teen, in today's world. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
Children's Literature
Patti Yoon plays the violin and strives to just get by despite her parents’ expectations that she will score the perfect SAT and get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Being distracted by a trumpet player with startling green eyes does not help. Like the hermetically-sealed mandoo (pork, sprouts and egg in wonton skin) Yoo shows us with loving care, Patti’s life is filled with conflicting tensions all wrapped up in parental imperatives that might seem familiar to a generation of immigrants. Orchestra kids are a world unto themselves, and here that world is painted with small touches like a Bartok-Shostakovich CD mix and excess rosin dust. Things get complicated when Cute Trumpet Guy invites Patti to his house to jam, and she enters the alien world of rock music. She is additionally burdened with the guilt of hiding these sessions from her parents. Only the racist bully Eric (and, in fact, the entire racism thread) seems overdone, as if it might belong in an earlier generation of stories. It feels tacked on here. It is not that such characters could not exist today. It is just that there is enough going on in this story without that subplot. Perhaps a lighter touch could have rendered that thread more contextual and less obtrusive. The spam thread, in contrast, is utterly charming. The burn of a home perm, heartbreak, and Patti’s final realization about her own competence and worth in the world--all these earn their place in this book, which is a nice addition to the Asian American immigrant-themed YA novels that have emerged in the last few years. Readers who liked Millicent Min, Girl Genius in the middle grades will be likely to empathize with Patti Yoon in middle school.Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 18.

Senior Patti Yoon is stressed. Almost every class period consists of Advanced Placement courses, and her free time is full of practice SAT tests, college application essays, and church youth-group meetings. She is co-valedictorian and has been the concertmaster of the Connecticut All-State Orchestra since her freshman year, even though her parents started her on the violin only because it would look good on her college applications. But this year is different. A cute trumpet player serves as the catalyst for change in Patti's life. She jams with a guitarist, sneaks out of the house for good clean fun, and does not complete bonus assignments. Patti finally grows a backbone and defends her Korean heritage. Patti's parents dream about "HarvardYalePrinceton," but Patti must decide if money equals happiness. What makes this tried-but-true tale of anxious-girl-finding-her-wings stand out is Yoo's interjection of humor and lightheartedness. Who knew that Korean Americans loved Spam? Like a food memoir, Yoo includes three recipes with Spam as the main ingredient. Chapters are interspersed with short comments under the heading "How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy" and finally end with "How to Stop Making Your Korean Parents Happy and Start Making Yourself Happy." Top ten lists, a realistic relationship with Ben, and her Korean American church friends keep the story genuine and appealing. Yoo successfully combines the readability of a chick-lit novel with a fresh coming-of-age story. Reviewer: Sarah Hill
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Kirkus Reviews
Patti knows that the only thing harder than calculus, or maybe mastering the cadenza from the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, is being a PKD, a Perfect Korean Daughter. The PKD achieves great grades, shines at extracurriculars and is devoted to her church but never complains or brags. Most important, the PKD never questions her parents' pushing her to get into Harvard, Yale and Princeton and become a doctor or a lawyer. Though witty, linguistically gifted Patti has a number of academic talents, her greatest joy is playing the violin. She knows she's not supposed to rock the Harvard/Yale/Princeton boat but, encouraged by her violin teacher, she applies to Juilliard. Now her dilemma is not her SAT scores or her grades, but how to hide her desire to attend music school from her academically oriented parents. The Clash, a jam session and a new boy at school encourage Patti to break from her PKD shell and see her social life and violin studies in new ways. Teens living through the pressure of college applications and questioning their futures will sympathize with Patti in this enjoyable, funny but not superficial read, which bears many similarities to Alex Flinn's Diva (2006). (Fiction. YA)
ALA Booklist
“Patti’s convincing narration [is] filled with laugh-out-loud lines, but it’s the deeper questions about growing up with immigrant parents, confronting racism, and how best to find success and happiness that will stay with readers.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Good Enough

Chapter One

Pink Elephants

You've heard the joke, right? Why is a viola better than a violin? It burns longer.

Wait, here's another. You're lost in the woods and meet a pink elephant and a good viola player. Who do you ask for directions? The pink elephant—a good viola player is just a figment of your imagination.

Violists hate it when we violinists crack viola jokes. But my audition for the Connecticut All-State High School Orchestra is in ten minutes, and I'm trying to relax. I raise my bow above the strings, about to practice one last time. And that's when I hear it. This note.

This pure note, with a warm vibrato that could melt ice instantly, flows from a nearby trumpet. It floats across the room. My concentration's broken. That's never happened to me before.

I whirl around, looking for the source of the sound. Which isn't easy, because there are at least fifty trumpet players scattered throughout the lobby, practicing the same fanfare passage from Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, op. 34—one of the pieces the All-State Orchestra will perform at the annual concert next April.

It's eleven A.M. on the last Saturday of August, and auditions are being held at the University of Hartford's Hartt School, which is also where I have my violin lessons. Every year, students from all over Connecticut try out for a spot in the All-State Orchestra. Only the best are chosen, because we have to be technically advanced enough to practice the music to perfection on our own between now and April. Then we have an all-day rehearsal followed by a concert that evening. Students packthe lobby and nearby hallways, practicing furiously before their audition times. You've got a flautist doing C major arpeggios next to a cellist playing the first movement of the Boccherini Cello Concerto. And across from the cellist sits my friend Susan Summers, bobbing her head up and down as she runs through a difficult passage from a Vivaldi bassoon concerto. (I could insert a bassoon joke here,1 but I like Susan, and she's a really good musician, even though, well, she plays the bassoon.)

I glance at my sheet music—for the solo part of my audition, I will play the first movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. I've won the first chair of All-State Concertmaster three years in a row. Being chosen concertmaster means you're the best violinist in the entire state. I'm hoping to win it again for my senior year. Getting concertmaster for the fourth straight year will look good on my college applications. Plus I know the Mendelssohn like the back of my hand. But the sixteenth notes splayed across the paper blur into a hazy, inky mess because I can't pay attention. Normally I can zone out all this white noise. What's wrong with me?

I duck as a neighboring violinist's bow nearly impales my left ear. She ignores me and keeps practicing . . .the Mendelssohn. I pause and listen as she scrambles to hit all the notes—she rushes the beat and her intonation is sharp. I sigh, relieved she's not as good as me.

And then I spot him. The one who's distracting me from preparing for my audition. He's standing in the far left corner of the lobby. The blinking fluorescent lights sparkle off the bell of his trumpet. His eyes are closed, and he stands perfectly straight at attention, his left hand curled in a C shape around the valves of the trumpet. He's tall and lean, dressed neatly in a pair of faded jeans and a white Oxford shirt, the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. His wavy brown hair curls behind his ears, and long bangs cover his eyes.

For a moment I'm in another world, transfixed by each beautiful note that peals effortlessly from his lips. I'm glad he doesn't play violin, because then we'd have to compete against each other.

He finishes the fanfare. He lowers his trumpet and glances in my direction. He pushes a lock of hair away, and I notice how green his eyes are.

Silence. He's still staring at me. Too late, I realize he's caught me just standing here, gawking at him, my mouth partially open. My thick black-framed Harry Potter–style glasses slip down my nose. I push them up, wishing for the thousandth time that my nose wasn't so flat and that I didn't have the kind of pudgy Korean face that looks cute at age seven but not at age seventeen, and that I wasn't so short. Guys normally don't smile at me unless they're making fun of me for taking stuff like Star Wars a little too seriously or asking me to help tutor them in math. I look away from him, and I wonder why my heart is suddenly beating so fast.

While I'm thinking these thoughts, the cute trumpet guy walks right over, cradling the trumpet underneath his arm. He towers over me—I have to step back and crane my neck to see his eyes.

"Hi," he says.

All that floats through my brain is a trumpet joke. How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but he'll do it too loudly. (Oh my God. Stop it.)

Cute Trumpet Guy just stands there, waiting for me to say something. I'm tongue-tied because I'm mesmerized by his eyes, which are the exact same shade of green as that of pimento-stuffed olives. I don't even like olives.

"What's wrong?" he asks. Suddenly I realize I've been frowning this whole time.

"You're too loud." I wince. I can't believe I just said that. But it is true—he was too loud and I couldn't concentrate.

"Sorry," he says. But he doesn't sound upset. "Are you nervous about your audition?"

What? Excuse me? Did Cute Trumpet Guy just ask if the Three-Times-in-a-Row-All-State-Concertmaster was nervous?

"You have to try and zone everyone out," he continues. "It's hard, but you can do it."

Good Enough. Copyright (c) by Paula Yoo . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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