Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Everything Belongs to Us Book Review

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

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Seoul, 1978. At South Korea’s top university, the nation’s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.
For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn’t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin’s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father’s world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty.
But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever.
In this sweeping yet intimate debut, Yoojin Grace Wuertz details four intertwining lives that are rife with turmoil and desire, private anxieties and public betrayals, dashed hopes and broken dreams—while a nation moves toward prosperity at any cost.

Review by Brittany:

I was offered the chance to read this book through NetGalley, and while it didn't sound totally up my alley, I decided to give it a shot.

I'm on the fence about this book. It opens with a women's protest, which I found extremely fitting for the current times our own country is experiencing. However, the cultural differences were definitely pronounced in this book. The stress that Namin is under to try to make a successful life for herself and her family is immense. She is what her entire family is relying on - only her success will pull them out of the poverty they are facing. Her older sister was passed over and works in a factory, doing the same work that is being protested across the country.

Jisun, on the other hand, actively participates in the protests, despite having no true experience of what those other women are going through. She tries to separate herself from her father's wealth, but her family name is something that she cannot discard.

Sunam becomes Namin's boyfriend, even meeting his family and carrying on this relationship, despite the fact that he is in a separate class from her. However, Sunam finds himself a bit intrigued by Jisun and a bit exhausted of Namin's desperate race to be a successful doctor.

The storyline here is interesting. I loved reading about Namin's struggles with her family and the ways in which she was impacted by the poverty into which she was born. Her relationship with Sunam gives her a chance to prove that a person is not merely how they grow up, but also the drive that they have themselves. Her friendship with Jisun is fraught with tension throughout the entire novel, to the point where it is often difficult to see that there is actually a friendship there.

Where this book falls short for me was on the pacing. There were often times when I found myself just waiting for something to happen, and by the end of the book I was ready for it to be over. I think that with some quicker moving action this book would have been better.

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