Cover Image: Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice

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Member Reviews

I so wish I'd known about and read this book when it was first published. Like the protagonist, Ellen, I was also the daughter of immigrant Asian parents at a pre-dominantly white high school during the nineties. Much of what Ellen experienced resonated with me: not speaking up when racist comments were directed at me, immediately noticing other Asian Americans in the room (because it was so rare), transitioning from the term "oriental" to "Asian American," and feeling torn between two cultures. I especially appreciate that Lee addresses these Asian American themes in a way that doesn't feel forced, didactic, or tied up neatly in the end. This story also captures why I love YA fiction so much—there's something so rewarding and beautiful about the years when everything is both incredibly daunting and also rife with possibilities. But what I enjoyed most of all were the complexities in Ellen's relationships with her parents, sister, friends, and teachers—they are well-drawn, speak across cultures and ring true still today.
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I didn't realize that Finding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee was a rerelease until I was reading the afterward. But what does that say about the book? The themes are universal. The racism that the main character Ellen experiences in her insular community feels entirely contemporary. The struggle that she goes through to decide if she wants to appease her parents or follow her own path can be empathized with by anyone who has survived their teen years. It's almost a lyrical narrative, going through the seasons of her year in an earnest, confessional style. This is a quick read, but one that had a lot of pay off. It will be heavily recommended by me.

Review to be posted on Instagram upon publication.
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3.5 STARS - Finding my Voice is written is slightly choppy. This book isn't one that has an even flow in which the reader follows Ellen’s life; rather, this book jumps from scene to scene. While in the beginning, it took some getting used to, a few chapters in the writing style started to feel less choppy. The writing style also reads just a little younger than what is traditionally published in today’s YA literature. It could be that the way this book is written may have been how most of YA was written in the early 90s (though I can't be sure as I haven't read many YA books written in the 90s).

A big theme of this book is racism and though we do see Ellen have to deal with it, this book could have delved just a little deeper into to subject. The way it was touched on felt pretty surface level. Though it is understandable if Marie Myung-Ok Lee did this intentionally in hopes to keep this book light-hearted while still sharing an important message. 

Lastly, it would have been nice to have been to have seen just a little more growth from Ellen. This book is quite literally titled “Finding my Voice” and while Ellen did technically find hers, I wish we saw more from Ellen in terms of growth and using her voice against racism. 

I did very much enjoy the representation of being a first-generation American. Sometimes it hard to know your place or figure out where you truly belong when you are of one culture while living in the land of another culture.
“Like Homer’s Odysseus, my parents set sail from home to a new land. Maybe like Odysseus, one day they’ll return home. But where will I go? Born on the journey, I’m not sure where I belong.”

I also appreciate Marie Myung-Ok Lee including the immigrant experience from Ellen's parents’ perspective and the short look the reader gets into their life, fears and experience.

As a person of color and first-generation American, I found there to be many relatable quotes throughout this book that I highlighted. Though I think this book may have a larger impact on me if I had read it when I was younger, I am still very appreciative of it and am glad to have read it now.

**Thank you to Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Soho Press / Soho Teen and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review**

Full Review:
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Finding My Voice tells the story of "Ellen" Sung, a Korean girl living in Arkin, Minnesota. Ellen struggles with being 'different' (read being Asian in an all-white community), racist people, and the academic expectations of her parents. She tries to find her voice when facing bullies, as well as her parents. 

I thought the story was super fast-paced. Rather than following Ellen from day-to-day it tells us different instances of her life. It was a light-read about Ellen's last few months of high school with some romance, but also some important underlying themes.

What is very interesting about this book is that it was first published in 1992, which I did not realize upon reading it at first. It is both interesting and saddening to see that what happened almost thirty years ago is still relevant today since racism is still very much present in society today.
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This book was such a great little surprise - I am glad it's being republished - I can't believe it was first published before I was born! I liked the insight into the early nineties through the eyes of a Korean-American teenager, Ellen.

Ellen is the younger sister of Michelle, who is currently studying at Harvard University. There is a lot of pressure for Ellen to also get into Harvard to study pre-med, but Ellen isn't quite sure what she wants. I really empathised with Ellen's confidence issues when it came to her academics. She doesn't feel like she's as smart as her sister, and thinks her sister was a lot more dedicated than she is which isn't exactly true. Ellen also enjoys high school gymnastics, but her parents' expectations means she can't always attend practice which puts her place on the team at risk.

Ellen faces so much racism whilst at school, and is called all sorts of racial slurs. The teachers don't really do anything to help, and even contribute themselves. Ellen was so mature about all of it, but she shouldn't have to go through that.

The romance between Ellen and popular guy Tomper is definitely a side plot, as it should be. It was cute and unexpected.

Overall I liked this book a lot. It's short but definitely tells a great story. I wish Ellen had found her voice just that little bit more, but the story ended in the most realistic way.
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**Originally Published in 1992**
cw // anti-asian racism, racial violence
It was good, but not exactly what I was expecting. It reads as a super dated contemporary novel and while the themes transcend time, the way the overt racism is presented just doesn't translate into modern times very well. It might just be me being lucky, but I have NEVER heard the phrases used against our main character and I grew up in a super racist state. It doesn't mean they didn't happen of course, but maybe the awful terminology has shifted? I think marketing it as a historical contemporary would make it make more sense instead of pretending it's a modern day contemporary.

Concept // ★★★★★★★
Arc of the Characters // ★★★★
Writing Style // ★★★★
Plot & Pacing // ★★★★★★
Intrigue // ★★★★
Logic & Lore // ★★★★★
Overall Enjoyment // ★★★
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I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley — thank you so much for this opportunity. I was also reading this ARC for #Koreadathon, which was quite exciting!

Finding My Voice is getting a revival after several years, making it one of the most iconic own voices novels of our time. It follows Ellen Sung, a high school senior on her way to college. With the struggles of strict parents, racism in her predominantly white town, and teachers who single her out for no reason, the experience of getting into the college she wants and achieving her goals seems impossible. What will she do to get through it all?

I really enjoyed this novel! I thought that it was very well thought out and it brought light to the current level of racism that Asian-Americans experience. The overgeneralisation and hate speech that occurs was very realistic and I thought was dealt with in a manner that fit the character arc of Ellen well. Additionally, I liked the relationships that were developed in the novel. I think that I would have liked more insight into being a Korean-American, and more cultural knowledge in this book, but otherwise, I thought it was a solid read!
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I found this book to be heartwarming and perfect! As tye main character Ellen is trying to juggle her parents high expectations, get the guy she has a crush on, all while dealing wity racism in her community... It made for a refreshing read.

Although, there were times I wish she would stand up for herself when she was bullied... I felt like she found her voice a little too late. Her getting everything at the end was nice, considering that in real life, it isn't always this way, but nonetheless... I enjoyed reading this book that shines a light on the racism that exists in other places. 

Thanks Netgalley, the author and the publisher for granting me the chance to read this book
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In Finding My Voice, Ellen juggles her two worlds: the obedient daughter of a Korean doctor and immigrant who want her to attend Harvard and the American teen who wants to have fun with her friends. The story is set a few years ago, but the themes, like racism, acceptance, identity, and family are still relevant today. When a football hero shows interest in Ellen, the temptation to sneak out grows and she finds herself lying to her parents and hiding her actions along with the racism experiences from students and teachers..

Verdict :  This is a good story about finding balance in ones identity when caught between two worlds. I recommend adding this to school libraries. We need more diverse books by diverse writers.
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ARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This book had a lot more heart than I thought it'll have. It dealt with a lot of issues such as racism, growing up, first love and fitting in. I'm really glad that this book is scheduled to be republished to reach a broader and new generation of readers.

Finding My Voice follows the story of 17 year old Ellen Sung, a regular girl who just wants to be like everyone else at her American high school. The people in her town however, never forget to remind her of her cultural differences of being a Korean-American. At the start of the year she starts falling for the cute popular boy, Tomper who seemingly likes her too but is their relationship enough to withstand the bigotry of her town and the disapproval of her family?

I found that the book was really light hearted despite its darker and more serious themes. It's well written with a real focus on Ellen trying to finish her last year of school and trying to satisfy her parents high expectations on what she should do once she graduates. More importantly, it shows Ellen struggling and overcoming the extreme racism and racist slurs of her peers and teachers. She uses the racist remarks as a motivator for her to do better in class and to achieve well to get into the University of her dreams.

I really enjoyed looking into Ellen's personal life with her family, her relationship with Tomper and her own identity as a student at her school. I thought each aspect of her life was carefully looked at and written. However, with Tomper I found that the relationship was built up too quickly for my liking. Despite its shortness I thought that if the romance was developed slower then I would've increased my rating.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and thought it was very careful and thoughtful with the themes depicted in it. I reckon that if this book was published today with current themes, the whole plot would've been very different especially with the prevalence of social media and cyber-bullying. Nevertheless though, it must be said that this book is very important to a wide variety of readers and should be on many people's to-be-read pile.

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Ellen is living in the Shadow of her genius older sister, who is fulfilling their parents dreams at Harvard. Stuck inside studying all the time, instead of enjoying her senior year she feels like she's missing out on all the classic teenage stuff she should be doing. On top of that she has to face racism from her peers and even some of her teachers for being Asian-American in a small minded town. But there's three rays of sunshine in Ellen's life; her friend Jessie, gymnastics and a cute boy at school who she thinks might like her. Can she find her own voice against the bullies and her parents to finally be who she wants to be? 

I'm really torn about this book. On one hand I really wanted to like it and enjoyed that it's an authentic view of 90's America for someone that doesn't fit in. But on the other hand, I found it kind of dull. It only begins to pick up near the end and then it suddenly finishes, nothing feels resolved and I hate open-ended endings MORE THAN ANYTHING! All things considered, I'd say I can see why this book was so groundbreaking at the time and I'm pleased it's being republished again but I just felt underwhelmed and unsatisfied by the story and some of the characters. 

Thank you Netgalley and Soho Press for sending me a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It didn't do it for me but I'm sure it will for countless others.
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I was reading halfway and realized I have read this book with a different cover back in the early 90s for school. What a pleasant surprise!  Still a easy read with short chapters about diversity and racism within asian community. There is themes of family - expectations of Asian parents with their kids education. I’m not sure if this book can reach current young generation for some of the references are a bit outdated. Still a lovely story.
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Finding My Voice is a relevant and thought provoking read with a very strong protagonist who entices you in to her story and makes you feel her emotions. Tackles topics such as racism which very much a relevant topic.
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At first "Finding My Voice" moved a bit too slow for my taste. Lee dives right into Ellen's story and at first, I wondered where she was going with it. As a reader, we experience everything Ellen deals with from parental pressures to racism. The racism theme was THICK in "Finding My Voice," I screamed a few times, mostly at Ellen because she just stood there and took it. The romance in this book was cute and it added some drama but it with or without the story could have moved forward. The book only began to pick up towards the end of the story but it went out with a bang! I was upset at the open ending, I really needed some closure! I love to see Ellen struggle with the blending of western and eastern ideas in her life; it's a very real thing that people have to deal with in this day and age. The growth of Ellen and her parents' relationship was brought me to tears and the theme of racism is well dealt with.
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Seventeen-year-old Ellen Sung just wants to be like everyone else at her all-white school. But the racist bullies of Arkin, Minnesota, will never let her forget that she’s different—the youngest member of the only Korean-American family in town.

At the start of senior year, Ellen finds herself falling for Tomper Sandel, a football player who is popular and blond and undeniably cute and to her surprise, he falls for her, too. Now Ellen has a chance at life she never imagined, one that defies the expectations of hanging out with her core group of friends or pleasing her parents.

I honestly didn't know that this book was originally published in 1992 when I started reading it, though I felt that it was set at a different era but still it was interesting to read.

It was beautifully written it was a fun light read about Ellen's final months as a high school senior. Its about how she manages to meet her parents expectations while trying to enjoy her senior year with her friends. 

Also most importantly the book focuses on how Ellen overcomes the constant racism she faces from few of her classmates and teachers. Its really amazing how Ellen takes in all the racist comments and kind of uses it as a motivation to do better in what she is good at, ie , studies. At times I hoped that she would get some courage and confront those idiots!! 

Though I feel if the book was set in 2020, the story would have been different and maybe Ellen would have found her voice sooner, I still enjoyed this book!!

Thank You to NetGalley and Soho Press for this ARC!!
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