𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗽𝘂𝗯𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗯, 𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗠𝗲 𝗯𝘆 𝗞𝗶𝗺 𝗦𝗮𝗴𝘄𝗮!
Living in a South Korean town, b and Rang are both isolated. b’s parents are consumed with her ill sister while Rang’s parents ignore her. The girls find solace in their friendship, but when Rang writes an essay about b and reads it to the class, revealing that b is poor and her sister is sick, b rejects her. Rang turns to Book, a strange character who lives on the outskirts of the city, while b falls in with a group of bullies led by Washington Hat.
b, Book, and Me, a short volume translated from the Korean, is dream-like and lyrical. I found the prose lovely, and at times amusing, but sometimes it was dense and ambiguous.
Both girls have reasons to be angry—b because of her fallen socioeconomic status and her sister’s health, Rang because of her parent’s apathy and the daily bullying she experiences at the hands of Washington Hat. Neither know how to process their rage nor do they have adult figures who can help them work through it. Without the scaffolding of their friendship, they become desperate, and a final confrontation at the End—the place where “abandoned people” live—brings things to an uneasy conclusion.
Although the cover image, a pair of scissors covered in blood, should have altered me, the book was much darker than I expected, and it included what felt to me like unrelenting cruelty. At the same time, it was so interesting and singular, I was very glad to have read it. I do think, though, that this is novel that would benefit from multiple readings.
I would recommend b, Book & Me to those who enjoy books in translation, coming-of-age stories, and non-traditional narratives.
Thank you to NetGalley and Two Lines Press for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.