Lazy reviewers may describe Yoo as an Asian-American David Sedaris, but Yoo’s voice is singular and all his own. He writes about his various sad adventures at school and work, though, none of his exploits are marked with much success. His description of high school is particularly hilarious and poignant, as he writes of his superficial embrace of hip-hop culture that comes under deep scrutiny during a KRS-One concert, in which he and his wannabe hip-hopper friends arrive at the concert venue and illicit stares of curiosity from the largely-black crowd.
His descriptions of college, with their tales of blissed-out roommates are just as cringely hilarious. He befriends an amateur bodybuilder who draws him into the activity, and his description of the two showing off muscle-flexing poses is laugh-out loud funny. As Yoo freely shares his body issues, there’s of course, a sheen of sadness to his dogged attempt at bulking up, to become an Asian-American Ah-nuld.
As if the stories of high school and college aren’t head-shakingly sad, he also writes about his pretty dreary family life. His parents view his life and work with wary eyes – he’s a failure, especially in comparison to his more traditionally successful older sister. In fact, there’s a creepy Single White Female like story arc where Yoo’s dad sort of takes in a replacement son – a far more successful young man than Yoo himself. Unlike Yoo, who toils away at a series of dead-end temp jobs, his under study’s on a fast track to a successful career in business.
Reading this review, one would assume this is a gloomy read. And at times it is, but Yoo’s writing so good, you won’t mind it; there are grim moments in his life, and he freely indulges in self-pity, but recognizes it. Yoo’s very smart, but his disillusionment often blocks him from success. It’s often frustrating to read his passages of when he acknowledges his laziness, but you’re rooting for him because of his insightful voice. Yoo’s a distinct voice, but he does recall the paralysis that many young, educated people have once they leave college – not sure where they’re headed or where they belong. Yoo doesn’t offer any answers, but he does narrate a pretty fantastic story.