“So funny and heartfelt.”—Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese
“I love the profound honesty of I’m Ok.” —Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park
Ok Lee is determined to find the perfect get-rich-quick scheme in this funny, uplifting novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Crenshaw.
Ok Lee knows it’s his responsibility to help pay the bills. With his father gone and his mother working three jobs and still barely making ends meet, there’s really no other choice. If only he could win the cash prize at the school talent contest! But he can’t sing or dance, and has no magic up his sleeves, so he tries the next best thing: a hair braiding business.
It’s too bad the girls at school can’t pay him much, and he’s being befriended against his will by Mickey McDonald, the unusual girl with a larger-than-life personality. Who needs friends? They’d only distract from his mission, and Ok believes life is better on his own. Then there’s Asa Banks, the most popular boy in their grade, who’s got it out for Ok.
But when the pushy deacon at their Korean church starts wooing Ok’s mom, it’s the last straw. Ok has to come up with an exit strategy—fast.
In the wake of his father's unexpected death, sixth-grade Korean immigrant Ok Lee ("No one at school says my name right... Say "pork." Drop the p sound. Now drop the r sound") is determined to earn money to help his mom, who works three jobs, and "keep alive father's plan for success in the USA." Unfortunately, Ok's money-making schemes braiding his classmates' hair, tutoring the most popular kid in class, and learning how to roller skate to win the school talent contest prize prove less profitable than he had hoped, and in addition, he is often bullied over his name, his appearance, and his traditional Korean food. As Ok and his mother are forced to move into a smaller apartment, Ok feels like he's failing, and his desperation leads him to lie, steal, blackmail, and betray newfound friends. Debut author Kim, also a Korean immigrant, tells a moving story of family, culture, and growing up, through the eyes of a boy who struggles to fulfill his father's American dream and maintain his own sense of pride. Ok's anger and frustration about his father's death and his mother's burgeoning relationship with a deacon from their church ring particularly true, as do his ethical and emotional growth. Ages 10 up.