Bloody Seoul by Sonia Patel

91ahCAfGKOL._AC_UY218_Bloody Seoul by Sonia Patel. Cinco Puntos Press, 2019. 9781947627215

Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? A satisfying story of a bad boy who makes good. Sixteen year old Rocky was born to the gang life as the son of a powerful drug overlord in Seoul, South Korea. He has already established his own mini gang at school, where he and his friends extort money and relentlessly bully a mixed race girl, in the style of his violent father. Although he plays the part well, inside he is mixed up about his actions. He reveres and fears his ruthless father, but, deep down, does not want to be like him. He has a sensitive soul, and has a hard time hiding his OCD, clearly a coping mechanism. He misses his Mom, and yearns for love. After months of bullying Ha-Na, the mixed race girl at school, he decides to make amends with her as a way of reforming himself. He also seeks out an uncle, who he thought was banished from the gang, in order to learn more about his family and his missing mother. Finally, he finds a way to distance himself from his abusive father.

I was drawn in by the handsome boy on the cover, which has an appealing graphic novel look to it. I like that Rocky was so introspective, although it took a long time for him to listen to his pacifistic impulses. I think teens will be attracted to the handsome tattooed bad boy who is good underneath it all.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The bullying is quite violent, and crosses a line with me. The father’s abuse is frighteningly portrayed. I found it hard to believe that the bullied girl would warm up to Rocky, and that coincidence would have them sharing the same plane out of Seoul at the end.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is for older teens, age 16 and up, because of the graphic nature of the violence. Offer it to those who are interested in gang drama, or realistic fiction set in Korea.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Adult fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 3, 2019

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