John Cho is an actor known for his roles in films such as American Pie, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and Star Trek. His debut novel for young readers, Troublemaker (Little, Brown, March 22), follows Korean American middle schooler Jordan and his family through one night of the 1992 LA riots. Jordan embarks on a tense journey to his father’s liquor store, a harrowing event that imparts lessons about bias, integrity, and responsibility.

From the Kirkus review of Troublemaker: “The realistically middle-grade voice, strong characterization, and well-paced storyline show the growth of a boy who is moving from limited awareness to a mature perspective on his place in his family and broader community. The novel weaves together large-scale issues of social injustice and interracial barriers with the intimate pain—and joy—of personal relationships.”

In this interview, conducted over Zoom, Cho discusses the rewards and challenges of writing his first book, the importance of writing honestly for his audience (“middle school kids in particular have a very strong BS meter”), and his intent to provide readers with not only another perspective on the LA riots but also a “love story between father and son.”