The All-American

Highbridge Audio. Apr. 2023. 9:42 hrs. ISBN 9781696611053. $24.99. F
Second-generation Korean American Milan (The Little Man Inside) introduces Yi Byeonghak, better known as Bucky Yi, a Korean American high school senior living in rural Tibicut, WA. After his mother’s death, Bucky arrived in the United States as an infant, accompanied by his father. Now he lives in a trailer with his white stepmother, Sheryl, as his dad abandoned them years earlier. Bucky eats, sleeps, and dreams of football, desperately hoping to land a spot on a college team. Those dreams are destroyed when he gets into an altercation and it is discovered that his citizenship paperwork is incomplete. Bucky is unceremoniously deported and promptly conscripted into the South Korean army, after which new challenges ensue. Much of narrator Jason Vu’s work has been in nonfiction, but he has found his niche here. He skillfully brings out the layers of emotion that power this story, including Bucky’s teenage snark and overwhelming terror. Milan has peopled Bucky’s adventure with sweet hostel managers, irreverent English-speaking expats, terrifying South Korean military officers, and Bucky’s much-loved dysfunctional family; Vu performs verbal gymnastics to keep them all straight in listeners’ minds.
VERDICT A poignant coming-of-age story that raises questions about race, belonging, and the nature of family.
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