Author: Won-Pyung Sohn
Genre/s and tags: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mental health
Publisher: Harper Via
Publication date: May 5, 2020
Content warnings: Physical assault/harassment, graphic violence, bullying, gore/blood, death of family members
This story is, in short, about a monster meeting another monster.
One of the monsters is me.
Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.
Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae.
Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero.
The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.
Hello book nerds and bookmys! Happy December! Can you actually believe it’s the last month of 2021?! I mean, I’m still processing March 2020, to be honest. But let’s not dwell on the past! Today, I am here to talk about a recent read and one of my favorite reads this year—Almond!
Now, I first learned about Almond because BTS members RM and Suga were seen reading this on their show, In The Soop (Season 1). Upon knowing the synopsis, I was even more interested! I’ve heard mixed reviews prior to reading, so I was a little bit hesitant. But now that I’ve finished it, I can say that I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book!
Almond is a gem. This book explores adolescence, the meaning of emotions, the diversity of people’s lives and journeys, and friendship. It was tender, honest, simple yet profound.
My thoughts on Almond
Almond was beautiful. It was light, easy to read, and even though the chapters were short, every single one of them left you with questions and emotions. You just want to find out what happens next.
Reading the story through Yunjae’s perspective was interesting. It had that innocence of a child/young boy, but it also had that innocence of someone who’s not attuned to their emotions. This for me makes his point of view unique, especially as we see him grow and change throughout the book. The main character experienced tragedies, went through adolescence, met various people, discovered and learned new things, and more. As I read the story, I can see that Yunjae can experience emotions, he just doesn’t recognize it. I think the author did a really great job conveying this condition and making it believable for the readers.
Another thing that I liked about Almond is that, as much as it is an incredible and unique exploration of adolescence, it is also an amazing exploration of life and people. Throughout the story, we got to meet these various characters and know about their life and their experiences. We get to see how different their lives were and how a single thing can impact their lives. Ultimately, this book showed how a little love and support can go a long way and can change everything for a person. Yunjae could have had a different, daunting, personality and attitude towards life, but he didn’t. He didn’t because his mother and grandmother supported him and loved him, they were there for him despite the challenges of his condition.
Of course, one of the focal themes of the story is friendship and I thought this book beautifully highlighted the odd friendship between Yunjae and Gon. The start of their relationship was rocky, yes, but together, they found beauty and kindness within each other and made a bond of their own.
Overall, I think Almond is the perfect coming of age/slice of life novel that just leaves you with a lot of meaningful lessons. I truly enjoyed this book and I’m so so glad I got to read it.
(Also, if anyone saw me crying as I flipped that last page, please look away.)
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