Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her "Yu-MEAT" because she smells like her family's Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she's reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she's a girl named Kay Nakamura--and Yumi doesn't correct them.

As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.
A shy girl who wants to be a comedian, Yumi Chung finds herself deceiving her parents in order to make her dreams come true. Along the way she learns the importance of family and that her immigrant parents might just support her if she gave them the chance.

A heartfelt story centered on family, comedy, and being your true self; Stand Up, Yumi Chung! is one of the most hyped middle grades of 2020 and for good reason. Jessica Kim's debut has stand out characters and an impactful storyline. Yumi's passion for comedy is what truly sold me on her. She practices and writes jokes in her "Super-Secret Comedy Notebook" constantly. She is so determined to show her parents that she can do comedy and ace an important test that she spends hours studying for something she doesn't want to do. She finds it in herself to take a chance, although a morally gray one, to learn how to be a better comedian. She learns to tell jokes in front of people and be okay with being in the limelight while being shy. As a fellow shy person, I appreciated her realistic growth on the stage. Family was a large aspect of the story and having an immigrant father and grandparents myself, it's always interesting to see the similarities and differences between immigrant cultures. My parents drilled into me and my brothers how important education is because it's something that can't be taken away. With our careers they mostly want us to have stable jobs and for us to be happy. At first, Yumi's parents didn't seem to focus on happiness, but for them, a successful career where you don't have to worry about money is being happy. Speaking of being happy, I loved that Yumi's sister - Yuri - decided she rather go find herself then do something she knows she hates in order to make her parents happy. Both sisters were going through the same thing at different times in their lives which I thought was a great addition to the plot. Yumi's jokes themselves could be very good especially when she was talking about her permed hair. None of them were belly laugh funny but I'm not the audience. I can see kids her age enjoying her jokes. Lastly, I enjoyed the satisfying and somewhat realistic ending to the story. I think it had a good message that kids can take with them after the story is finished.

I do have some qualms about Yumi's story centering around being a comedian. It would be nice if more books focused on characters who want to be something either kids' have never heard of or something not revolving the arts. Yumi wants to be a comedian like someone she follows on YouTube which isn't really realistic but I guess that's the point. However, I do think that showing the drive Yumi had towards working hard to be a good comedian leveled off the playing field. Also, I love books with food descriptions but I didn't know any of the food that was talked about in this story. It would have been so nice to have an illustrated image or two of some of the food that was served at Chung's Barbecue. One last thing, I wish this wasn't a standalone. I would be really interested to see Yumi in seventh, eighth, or even as a freshman in high school with the new friends she made and her current best friend.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! is well worth the hype as it showcases the struggles and love of being a part of an immigrant family and the determination it takes to stand up for your dreams.

Thanks to Kokila (Penguin Group) and NetGalley for letting me read Stand Up, Yumi Chung in exchange for an honest review!


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