Share
  • Book
  • English(English)

나b책

  • Author
  • Country
    Republic of Korea
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
    2011
  • Genre
    Literature for Children and Adolescents - Creative Story

Title/Author/Genre

  •  

    Title: b, Book, and Me

    Author: Apple Kim

    Genre: Young Adult Novel

     

    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek (alex_b@klti.or.kr / +82-2-6919-7733)

Description

  • About the book

     

    Narrating the story of a lonely middle school student, “I”, her only friend, b, and a mysterious man, Book, b, Book, and Me is a full-length novel that plaintively yet subtly delivers the acute pain of young, enraged, and desperate teenagers.

     

    The narrator, a middle school student living in a small coastal city, is bullied at school for no apparent reason, which she endures only because of the presence of her friend, b. After a small incident, however, she grows distant from b and the bullying gets worse. Unable to bear it any longer, the narrator wanders the streets, but loses her way and ends up meeting the mysterious Book. On the other hand, b’s family struggles to make ends meet to pay b’s brother’s medical fees. Despairing her situation, b harasses her ill brother and grows hatred for her world. As she grows distant from the narrator, b begins to spend time with one of the bullies, Washington Cap, but her heart remains distressed. Eventually, b cuts ends with Washington Cap. He responds by bullying b in place of the narrator, who no longer goes to school. As the bullying worsens, one day, b returns from school to find her brother dead, and decides to leave her home. At the beach, b fatefully runs into the narrator and Book. The three stay at Book’s house, engaging in small, leisurely pleasures. Subsequently, they go to the Hospital, which is a sort of refuge for poor and dangerous people forgotten about in the city. At the Hospital, b and the narrator dance with other people and enjoy their time. However, after running into Washington Cap, the narrator subsequently loses her consciousness. When she wakes up, Washington Caps’ gang is beating up Book. The narrator picks up a large rock. Time passes; Washington Cap, b, and the narrator recover under medical treatment and leave the hospital. b moves far away and Washington Cap transfers to another school. Book also leaves the city. The narrator returns to school and past events are gradually forgotten. Eventually, the narrator becomes a high school student.

     

    The issues presented in b, Book, and Me, such as collective bullying, poverty and the gloomy, obscure futures of neglected and alienated teenagers, aren’t new to teenage literature. However, the author’s explosive energy and unique and nuanced writing style shed a distinctive light on them. Kim doesn’t easily pity her odd, neglected protagonists; nor does she take on a blatantly accusatory tone towards society. Instead, by vividly delivering narrators’ rage-filled voices, Kim renders their lives more relatable and approachable to her readers.

     

    The voice of the narrator, a middle school student abused by her peers, is tense: “I feel scared. Actually, very scared. Yes, very scared. And these are the same as yesterday, too: feeling scared, and my hair smelling like what I ate for lunch. For how long will this continue? For how long will I have to go through this terribly same day? Maybe forever.” (pg.--)

     

    b’s life is no different. Faced with the responsibility of taking care of her sick sibling, b hates that her brother’s illness drove her family into poverty, and also that it seems impossible to find a way out of their predicament. The heavy plight of poverty makes it difficult for b to love her sick brother:

     

    “This is all because of my brother. It wasn’t like this before. […] But when is “before he was sick”? It seems like he had been sick even before I was born. That is, it seems like I had a sick brother before I was even born. Thanks. It’s going to suck even more for me, and it’s all because of you.” (pg.--)

     

    The hopeless protagonists are each other’s only source of miracle-like support. The narrator is bullied for no reason, but endures it day after day only because of b. Similarly, b rages against her prospectless life of poverty, but with the narrator can enjoy temporary moments of peace. Once they leave their homes, the narrator and b stay with Book, who lives at the edge of the city and reads books all day long. The three briefly establish for themselves an alternate community. It is profound that the story takes place in a provincial coastal town, far away from Seoul, a signifier of modern capitalism. b, Book, and the narrator aren’t a biological family, but spend their everyday life together, becoming pillars of support for each other. As such, anarchistic elements characteristic of Kim’s novels permeates the image of the characters’ non-conforming lifestyles. Eventually, subsequent violence and catastrophes lead to the destruction of the community. However, in the context of the suppressed ending, in which b leaves the city while the narrator stays behind, the brief period of happiness enjoyed staying at Book’s home becomes a memorable and sacred scene. b, Book, and Me does not explicitly present a solution or alternative to the issues it raises. Instead, it seems to value the shared memory of beautiful moments, albeit the dull life that waits ahead. 

     

    About the author

     

    Born in Seoul, 1984, Kim has published her literary works since 2005. b, Book, and Me is her first youth novel. Through works such as Young, her debut and a depiction of an isolated child’s despair amidst domestic strife and violence; Mina, a biting criticism of the ills and absurdities of a capitalist society, presented through tragic subject matters such as teenage suicide and homicide; and The Grass Lies, a story of two young adults who fruitlessly dream for lives of genuine love and art, Kim has inquired into the disrupted lives and sufferings of neglected and isolated teenagers. As such, her works have been considered to “proclaim a severance from the established structure of a rampaging, materialistic society and remain uncompromising to the very end” (Critic GiUk Han, from Fall, 2010 edition of ChangBi). b, Book, and Me is more so significant because it is the first of Kim’s works to speaks primarily to a teenage audience. Compared to her previous works, b, Book, and Me moderates the catastrophic energy with which it depicts despair and rage, and instead constructs a sorrowful and subtle tone that adds to its appeal.

     

    About the translators

     

    Sunhee Jeong, or Sunny, is currently an undergraduate studying media studies at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Reading and discussing novels has always been and will always be one of her greatest passions. Translating B, Book, and Me has been an exciting and inspiring journey, and she eagerly anticipates for the awakening, refreshing, and punch-in-the-face story to broaden its audience. 

     

    Media Response/Awards Received

     

    “There is no need to refer to the common stereotypes when reading Kim’s first ‘teenage novel’. Allegorical and figurative, Kim’s work can be interpreted as, in fact, a teenager’s critical take on the world. Scenes of violence, illustrated through simple sentences flung out like staccatos, are made even more chilling by the narrator’s dry and indifferent tone.”

    -The Dong-A Ilbo

     

    “If Kim’s previous works uncompromisingly drives to the very end, the ills and absurdities of a capitalist society, here, a restrained and subtle mood pervades even within the most absurd circumstances. With the incorporation of fantastical elements, an aloof, yet sorrowful piece of work has been born. The issues presented in b, Book, and Me, such as collective bullying, poverty and the dark, obscure futures of neglected and alienated teenagers, aren’t new to teenage literature. However, the author’s explosive energy and unique and nuanced writing style shed a distinctive light on them. Kim doesn’t easily pity her odd, neglected protagonists; nor does she take on a blatantly accusatory tone towards society. Instead, by vividly delivering narrators’ rage-filled voices, Kim renders their lives more relatable and approachable to her readers.”

    -Munhwa Ilbo

     

Translated Books (5)

News from Abroad (11)