The self-imposed pressure to appear as beautiful as her older sister is accentuated by a makeover gift Joyce receives from her domineering family benefactor, Aunt Gomo. The prospect of attracting the good-looking JFK (John Ford Kang) isn’t the only concern for this Korean teen who’s balancing school and family responsibilities with her parent’s expectations for daily assistance in their busy restaurant. But when it becomes clear that the makeover extends to plastic surgery to create a western-looking fold in her eyelids, Joyce is torn between respectfully complying and her discomfort in surgically creating a look more acceptable to her Aunt, who has appeased her own insecurities with surgery. Na poses a two-fold dilemma for girls of all races. How should physical beauty be interpreted and to what extent should a girl be coerced into developing positive self-confidence? Na deftly provides alternative perspectives with some humorous disaster scenarios as consequences of Aunt Gomo’s good intentions with other family members’ “improvement gifts.” But Helen, the shy and soon-to-be-coming-out lesbian sister, ultimately helps Joyce realize self-respect leads to self-esteem and admiration for each other’s beautiful differences. A lighthearted and thought-provoking look at a serious teen issue. (Fiction. 12-15)
School Library Journal
The Fold. 288p. Putnam. Apr. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24276-2. LC number unavailable.
Gr 8-10–As one of only a handful of Asian-American students at her posh Los Angeles high school, 16-year-old Joyce Park has never felt as though she fits in. In the throes of an intense crush on John Ford Kang, a gorgeous and aloof classmate, she is consumed with worry about the way she looks, especially in comparison to her beautiful older sister, a social and academic superstar who seems to get everything she wants. Then her cosmetic surgery-addicted aunt comes into a lottery windfall and offers Joyce a gift: surgery to add a fold to her eyelids, transforming her Korean features into something more Western and, it is suggested, more beautiful. At first Joyce is appalled at the idea, but as she begins to obsess about the eyes of the Asian women around her, she becomes increasingly convinced that “the fold” is all that lies between her imperfect appearance and the ideal of feminine beauty. But will the surgery require her to give up her sense of herself in the process? Na explores issues of beauty and ethnic identity with sensitivity and wit. Her protagonist is carefully and realistically drawn; even as the novel is guided by a larger message about self-esteem, Joyce’s struggles and choices never seem predetermined for didactic purposes. This story will speak to both Asian-American teens and other adolescents dealing with issues related to the way that they look, the way they wish to be perceived, and the often painful distance between the two.–Meredith Robbins, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, New York City
Joyce's wealthy paternal aunt, Gomo, decides to give almost everyone in her family something that might improve his or her appearance: high heels for height-challenged Apa, permanent makeup for Uhmma, pills to spark growth for preteen Andy, and plastic surgery for Joyce. As Joyce watches one family member after another endure the adverse effects of Gomo's gifts-Uhmma's head swells like a balloon, Andy suffers humiliating intestinal distress-she decides to think carefully about whether double eyelid fold surgery is necessary. On one hand, getting the folds put in her eyelids might make her attractive enough to trap JFK (John Ford Kang). On the other hand, Joyce realizes that the procedure is a serious and potentially dangerous one. For most young women, especially women of color, the quest for beauty is a burden. Whether it is dark or blemished skin, full lips and hips, or some other perceived "imperfection," increasingly more women feel pressured to invest in cosmetic surgery. This novel can spark dialogue with young adults about society's obsession with certain physical attributes (thin bodies and long, straight hair) and its disdain for others (ethnic features, curly hair, Rubenesque figures, and so on). Although it might take a few chapters before readers become invested in Joyce's story, those who stick with it will find that Na skillfully combines solemnity, humor, and romance. Some readers might identify with the novel's focus on sibling rivalry, first love, and self-esteem, whereas others adamant about changing something about themselves might gain a new perspective. Reviewer: KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson