Before moving to Korea, I looked for a YA novel based in Korea but was out of luck. I had heard of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, but never got to reading it. Well, I still haven't! My access to young adult books is really limited right now, but I managed to track down another book by Park, a slim book called Seesaw Girl.
Seesaw Girl tells the story of Jade Blossom, the daughter of a King's advisor in 17th century Korea. She is feisty and doesn't fit in with the traditional role of a girl during the time period. There is no massive conflict in the book, more a series of stories about how Jade Blossom pushes the expectations her family has for her.
Most enjoyable for me was seeing things that I still encounter in my daily life in Seoul. Our houses are still heated by pipes of hot water running under the floor and ladies still often cover their mouths when they laugh. This is a great primer for a family moving to Korea, for kids of Korean descent, for intermediate level history buffs, and for budding feminists. It is also simple enough to be broken into a class read aloud.
Something that struck me about Seesaw Girl is that it has a very realistic ending. In most books, Jade Blossom would run away and become a warrior hero, live in the forest, or not have to get married. Basically, things that are not realistic for the time. Instead, she gets a small slice of happiness and freedom in the station where she was born. I appreciate Park's decision to keep Jade's life realistic.
A question I have: where are all the modern day YA novels about Koreans or Korean-Americans? Every book I have seen has been set hundreds of years ago. My students need some current heroines!