Exploring her Korean heritage for a school project leads Canadian fifth-grader Krista Kim into new territory with family, friends, and food.
Being the sole Korean girl in her class seems to have kept Krista out of the popular-girl group. Luckily, her best friend, Jason, who is white, has been by her side since preschool. He even likes to eat kimchi! When one of the cool girls surprisingly extends a birthday-party invitation, everyone encourages Krista to attend. Even her snobby older sister, Tori, reconstructs and adapts a traditional Korean dress, called a hanbok, so Krista will look K-pop fashionable. Encouraged by her sister and grandmother, Krista begins changing to fit into the popular crowd. As the story progresses in first person, Krista realizes she has been given conflicting advice from her loved ones. Tori helps her dress for success, but that attracts unwanted attention. Her blunt and opinionated grandmother, who favors Tori, pushes Krista to step out of character by wearing makeup and more-feminine clothing. Meanwhile, the person who knows her best, Jason, keeps floating farther and farther away. Author Ahn writes authentically about the struggle of assimilation while maintaining cultural tradition in a mostly white elementary school. Krista is not a vibrant heroine, but her struggles with identity and friendship will nonetheless resonate.
A sympathetic portrayal of a typical 11-year-old trying to fit in, with a bit of Korean flair. (Fiction. 8-12)