k-book · Review

Won-pyung Sohn’s Almond Is The Most Checked-Out South Korean Book of 2020 And For A Reason

First published back in 2017, Almond gathered positive reviews and reactions regarding the portrayal of a young boy dealing with Alexithymia, but the book really experienced a boom last year with BTS reading it, especially in South Korea itself.

I am finally back with another book review after exactly a year (you can read the reviews for The Vegetarian, Human Acts and Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 on the blog). I’ve read a few books this year but I was completely worn out by the time I was done with my masters degree and so I pretty much didn’t look at anything that wasn’t related to my work in quite a while now. Almond seemed really interesting, with its direct synopsis, and so I decided to read it on a whim and ended up devouring it in two-sittings, albeit almost a week apart. The book has been translated into several languages (I read it English) and it apparently had quite a boom last year in South Korea, and internationally, because BTS were seen reading it during their variety show. Almond was the most checked-out book at public libraries in Korea last year, proving to be especially popular among women in their 40s, as sources say. Fun fact, I read half of the book while I was waiting for a bus to get me back home and freezing to death.

Source: Tumbral

From Goodreads: 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.

Should be spoiler free so read ahead!

The novel is seemingly simple and of an enjoyable length (because I’m currently overworked and can barely read outside of my own work) but it shares a strong message and deals with an interesting and delicate topic, albeit in a way of South Korean authors that I’m already used to – I do appreciate that it’s not in the 2nd person POV because that can sometimes be a bit tricky (looking at you Han Kang). Almond shares a story about a boy with a unique brain and also a unique approach to life and feelings and the way his own life and those around him change him little by little. Yunjae was an interesting character and I appreciate very much that we actually got to experience the entire novel from his perspective. It’s almost completely easy to understand him and the way he thinks and feels, but take this with a grain of salt because I’m just in general an emotionally repressed person and so I could relate a lot to some of his thoughts.

I really enjoyed reading about the friendship between Gon and Yunjae and that ended up being the highlight of the book for me. Gon, as a character, was a bit all over the place but he is the one that really pushes the plot of the novel forward and without him Yunjae wouldn’t experience half of the things he does. The addition of Dora was sweet as well although we definitely don’t end up having as big of a connection to her as we do with Gon. Considering Yunjae went through some pretty horrible things, as well as Gon, Almond deals with a lot of things gently in all of its raw pain. I think the writing, or at least the English translation, was really good as well and I can say I devoured this book in two sittings.

My only tiny complaint is that the ending seems a bit too unrealistic, like they are wrapping up a k-drama, but considering the characters went through major things in the second half of the book I’ll accept it the way it is. All in all, I’d recommend Almond as it’s interesting and also a quick, somewhat easy (language and writing style wise) read.

Header Image Source: Amazon

7 thoughts on “Won-pyung Sohn’s Almond Is The Most Checked-Out South Korean Book of 2020 And For A Reason

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s