Review: Troublemaker

Title: Troublemaker

Author: John Cho

Stars: ★★ (4 stars)

While many know John Cho from Harold and Kumar or from Star Trek, I first saw him in Selfie. A brilliant and cancelled far too soon modern retelling of Pygmalion. If you haven’t seen it, I completely recommend it. John Cho and Karen Gillan are fantastic together. When Little Brown sent this my way, I was curious to see if this would have the same heartwarming tone that said so much and yet remained humble (if not downright self-deprecating) in humor.

Present tense isn’t my favorite, but the narrator successfully guides the reader along in a stream of consciousness which plays upon the sometimes uncomfortable closeness of this sort of storytelling. Over and over, Cho hits on some of the most difficult topics that children in the United States have to deal with every day. Racism and gun violence take center stage. Both entwine with social/civil injustice, and any reader will likely know that while set in 1992, this could have easily taken place in 2021. The more things change, the more they stay the same and foreknowledge of that lack of resolution makes the main character’s dread all the more familiar and his hope all the more heartbreaking.

There are moments Cho’s message gets less than subtle. Preaching rarely goes well in middle grade; however, on the whole, Jordan is such an endearing character, desperately trying to do the right thing but often going about it the worst way. Anyone with older siblings knows the dangers of comparison. It was extremely relatable.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s a great way to get a number of conversations going right now.

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