In this coming-of-age debut, plastic surgeon Youn chronicles his sometimes-harrowing journey to becoming a doctor.
The author’s father surmounted tremendous obstacles to emigrate from Korea to become an obstetrician with a thriving U.S. practice, and he had high academic expectations for his son. When he was seven years old, the author writes, his father told him, “Tony, you become a transplant surgeon.” When Youn replied that he wasn't sure he wanted to be a doctor, his father's anger was explosive and he never challenged him again. The author succeeded in gaining social acceptance among his peers in Greenville, Mich., the small, lily-white, conservative community where the family lived. He writes that he was considered to be one of the cool kids, although his success with girls was limited. But when he attended Kalamazoo College, he was excluded socially and uniformly rejected by every young woman he approached. Academically, he was on track for medical school, a transition he looked forward to with high hopes. The author writes amusingly about his expectations: “Chicks love doctors. I’m going to med school to get laid.” While that didn't prove to be the case, Youn offers amusing stories about his ineptitude with his dates; eventually, he made close friendships and ultimately met his future wife. In medical school, he had the first glimmering of a vocation for medicine, but his hospital training experiences—described in humorous detail—were hellacious. Only when he was called to assist in an operation on a child whose face had been mauled by a raccoon, and was captivated by the thrill of reconstructive surgery, did he find his true vocation as a plastic surgeon.
While the author admits to taking “some comedic license,” the story of his Korean family and his struggle to find his path have greater appeal.