‘Unidentified Suburban Object’ by Mike Jung: Middle grade fiction

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Rating: 4 stars

“Unidentified Suburban Object” by Mike Jung is the story of a girl of Korean descent who is frustrated by her white-bread town and the fact that most of its inhabitants don’t know Korean people from Chinese or Japanese people.

Chloe is frustrated by the stereotypes, which include calling her by the name of a famous Korean violinist just because she plays the violin. In a sense, Chloe does fit the stereotype because she is a fierce student and competitive musician. She must be first chair in the orchestra, and she must get the best grades on all assignments.

Chloe is fascinated by her Korean heritage, but she is frustrated by her parents’ refusal to talk about being Korean. When she makes Korean food, they barely even notice. When she wears a traditional Korean dress (that she bought online), they don’t notice. When a new teacher arrives who is Korean, Chloe is thrilled that she will finally have someone to talk to about being Korean.

But a class assignment about family stories leads to a huge shock — and a huge surprise — for Chloe (and the reader). When she loses her Korean identity, Chloe is not sure just how she fits in.

“Unidentified Suburban Object” is well-written. It features an authentic first person narration. Middle grade readers will find the story entertaining and — one might hope — thoughtful. Not only is diversity discussed in the story, it also illustrates a student who is driven to be the best even at the expense of her classmates. Is that healthy? This would be a great choice for a group read to be discussed with the teacher.

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), for review purposes.