Rebecca's Reviews > When My Name Was Keoko

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
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's review
Jul 02, 2012

it was ok
Recommended to Rebecca by: Found it browsing at the bookstore
Read on July 02, 2012

Park provides the reader with an intimate view of a Korean family living through the Japanese occupation thirty years prior to the end of WWII. While I liked the use of dueling narrative voices and perspectives (a sister and her brother), I found the distinction in each voice lacking. Had the chapter heading not identified the speaker, I would have struggled to tell the difference. Further, I didn't get a sense of growth in the narrators' voices. While they moved through very dramatic times in their lives, the narration style seemed static.

The pacing is a bit slow, as the plot builds to a critical moment, the reader quickly shown that the moment was no where near as dangerous as it may have seen. There lacked details of the effect of limited food, forced conscription and the torture and imprisonment of political prisoners. These events are spoken about in a way that seemed to undermine their significance or impact on an individual's life. If I did not have a background in the history of this region, I would have found it difficult to understand that they were severe problems.

Despite my disconnect with the story, I feel like the lack of detail makes the book a safe read for a much younger reader (8 or 9 years). I don't know if the content would interest many readers of that age, but I would feel safe letting a child of that age read the book independently. The book is soft around the edges when it comes to the horrors of war. I would recommend reading the book with the child to fill in some of the history and holes left by the story.

As for a teen audience, I wonder if they might need a few more details to sink their teeth into in order to get a sense of the depth of oppression the Korean population suffered under the Japanese and how the years of occupation created the road of poverty and instability that help lead Korea into its own civil war.

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