Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

Yumi Chung faces the classic teen dilemma: honor your parents or follow your dream?

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! By Jessica Kim. Penguin Random House, 2020, 306 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-14

Take my parents—please! Yumi Chung’s parents are typical Korean overachievers who brag about her older sister’s medical-school grades incessantly. Mom has also signed Yumi up for the SSAT so she can earn another year’s scholarship at Winston Preparatory Academy, and the ‘rents can garner bragging rights for their second-born, too. Shy, awkward Yumi doesn’t fit at WPA, where they call her Yu-Meat after catching a whiff of the family Korean-barbecue restaurant. She feels most at home on an imaginary stage doing standup comedy like her idol Jasmine Jasper, creator of the world’s greatest kids’ comedy tutorials. Parental ambitions have always come before Yumi’s, though; Mom has already signed her up for hagwon (study sessions) to prep for the SSAT.

Then, an amazing thing: a building nearby has been remodeled into a comedy club, and no less a personage than Jasmine Jasper will be leading a summer camp for kids! Too bad Yumi can’t go . . . but maybe she can. As a result of wandering in during the opening session—just to catch a glimpse of her Youtube hero—Yumi is mistaken for another camper who enrolled in the class but didn’t show up. The other girl never shows up, so Yumi kinda sorta pretends to be her for a whole week.

This can’t last, and it doesn’t, and her deception is revealed in the most embarrassing way possible. But Yumi will get a chance to redeem herself in her parents’ eyes as the plot builds to a feel-good conclusion straight out of LaLa Land (which fits the L.A. setting). It’s good clean fun and though the ending is a bit predictable in some ways, Yumi manages to honor her parents while chasing her dream. Well done!

Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.75
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Also at Redeemed Reader:

  • Prairie Lotus traces the challenges faced by young Korean/American teen on the American frontier.
  • In Pie in the Sky, a Chinese immigrant to Australia also struggles with parental ambitions, even though they’re mostly in his own imagination.
  • Aven Green, protagonist of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, could also be a standup comedian; see our starred review.

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Janie

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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