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I'm Ok

Review

I'm Ok

People who only look at the cover of the book I’M OK, written by Patti Kim, will think that Ok stands for okay, but readers of the book will soon learn the truth. Ok is actually the name of the main character, a 12-year-old Korean who describes his name as being pronounced like pork without the “p” or the “k.” Having just lost his father, who died in a dreadful work accident, Ok is spending his school year working his way through his grief while at the same time trying to brainstorm ways to make money for him and his mom, so that their electricity doesn’t get shut off and they can keep paying their bills. He starts collecting money by starting a braiding business, where he braids the hair of girls at school and charges them.

"This is definitely a unique book that is worth a read and deserves a place on the shelf."

Ok learns how to braid hair by reading an instruction manual. He doesn’t practice, he can just suddenly braid girls’ hair in all different kinds of braids. No struggle is shown. He’s just a hair genius. While some people are born with natural skills, braiding well enough to do many different kinds of braid in a snap seems unrealistic. Not to mention, at the beginning Ok gets called down to the principal’s office because he posted a flier advertising he was going to braid for money and gets in trouble, but he doesn’t care and goes through with his business making the whole scene with the principal pointless other than some background information that Ok’s thoughts reveal about his life.

The author seems to use the whole first third of the book as setup of Ok’s life and background, but it could’ve only seemed this way because the narration had a distant feel to it. Ok tells the story in first person, but the narration has a distant feel to it and sometimes while reading, it seemed like Ok was describing nearby action of others, when really he was describing something he was doing in the moment. However, this factor could be seen as the unique voice of someone grieving. The story doesn’t seem to get started until Ok starts getting along with Mack, who he only seems to start a friendship with because she blackmails him to start braiding her hair. This seemed like a crumby example of a method to start a friendship, but Ok later does the same thing when he finds out a popular boy named Asa can’t read and uses the information to blackmail him.

A very good aspect of this book is the diverse representation of characters. Ok is Korean, which realistically is often mixed up with Chinese. He eats food that may be unfamiliar to many Americans and he’s the narrator of the text, which the world of literature needs as there are few books with Main characters that are Korean. On the other, most of the time when there are characters who are multicultural they are often poor immigrants and this book delivers that same perspective. As far as other young characters in this book his friends Mack and Asa both have unique family dynamics and atmospheres, which kids may find relative.

Despite the perceived shortcomings of the book I’M OK, there are interesting parts of the plot that will keep the reader captivated and the ending manages to be heartwarming and realistic at the same time. This is definitely a unique book that is worth a read and deserves a place on the shelf.

Reviewed by Angela Warsinske on October 25, 2018

I'm Ok
by Patti Kim