When Simon and Schuster Canada asked if I’d like to read and review an advance copy of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. When they mentioned that it was about a girl growing up in the 80’s, I was interested right away and I knew I’d like this book. (I just dated myself a little there, didn’t I?).
Here’s the description from the Publisher:
A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s.
This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.
A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.
Joon-Ho’s perspective on who she wanted to be and how she wanted to be regarded was not something I had ever considered before. She wants so desperately to be thought of as Canadian and “normal” but struggles with her Korean traditions and family expectations. It was difficult enough as a “regular Canadian" teenager trying to navigate life and figure out who I was, but adding this extra layer of inner conflict was very eye-opening to me. So many times in my adult life I have considered what other friends may have been going through when we were teens (family struggles, divorce, ethnic differences), but I was oblivious to it all. This story really shed some light on this topic.
I also was drawn to all the 80’s references in the book - Cyndi Lauper, Tiger Beat magazine, the fashion - it was so nostalgic and I loved it. I was brought back to those days when I thought life was so complicated and my biggest dilemma was how much hairspray would hold my bangs up for the entire day….
Although I did find it to be a fast read, the subject matter is not light in any way. Family conflict, teen mental health issues, forbidden romance and sudden death are all party of the story line and are addressed with honesty and frankness.
Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety would be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys Young Adult (YA) or general fiction novels, and especially by those who grew up in the 80’s like I did.