I haven’t written a review in so long so LOL I feel like I have completely forgotten how I used to write these, but that’s okay i’ll figure it out … I think?
Anyway, today I am reviewing a book that is super special to me because one: I loved the story and the setting so much (I cried), two: I almost never read literary fiction, so I was surprised that I actually enjoyed this book so much, and three: Namjoon and Yoongi from BTS love this book too, and honestly I can confirm— they do in fact have an immaculate taste in books.
Let’s get on with the review!!
Almond by Sohn Won-pyung
This story is, in short, about a monster meeting another monster.
One of the monsters is me.
Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.
Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae.
Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero.
The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.
“To be honest, I couldn’t have cared less. Whether I was normal or not made little to no difference. To me, it was as subtle as the differences in the nuance of the words.”
ALMOND is a book about a boy named Yunjae who had a condition called Alexithymia, which impacted his ability to feel emotions. The book began with his childhood, where he lived with his mother and grandmother. The family was portrayed as most families are— they had their share of conflicts, but the three of them did love each other more than anything (even though Yunjae didn’t particularly feel ‘love’).
“What does love mean?” Mom asked mischievously. “To discover beauty.”
Yunjae’s mother was a character I don’t really know my feelings about. On one hand she truly did love and care for him, and spent as much time as possible with her son even though she was managing a small second hand bookstore and not earning much from that. The thing that bothered me was how her worry about Yunjae’s inability to express emotions— especially reflex emotions such as fear, turned more into her being scared that something was ‘wrong’ with her child, and that she didn’t like this. Of course this could be a lot of my own interpretation, but I did feel that way.
On the other hand I think granny was one of the best characters in the book. She was so cool and Yunjae really did hold her in a special place in his heart. Unlike his mother she didn’t really care about what other kids or adults would say about her grandson, she loved him more than anything. I also liked how at the beginning of the novel, when she met him for the first time she called him a little monster in an endearing way— probably so that if vile people say it later on in his life, he would probably not think that is was something negative.
“To be more specific, I felt connected to the smell of old books. The first time I smelled them, it was as if I’d encountered something I already knew.”
Okay so moving onto Yunjae. My boy suffered way too much in this book, but I believe everything included in the plot helped enhance all the characters— also I won’t tell you more because *spoilers*. Honestly Yunjae was the coolest. For a person that doesn’t feel or express much, the amount of depth the author vocalised his thoughts and dialogue was impeccable. Also yes we love to see a book loving character. Yunjae loved the bookstore his mom managed and I think the bookstore setting/his home was my favourite too!
I also really liked the symbolism of the almonds used in the book. Obviously they signified the amygdalae in the brain. But I liked this particular scene where he said that his mom used to keep on feeding him almonds, as if eating actual almonds would somehow ‘fix the almonds in his brain’.
“People said there was no way to understand Gon. I didn’t agree with them. It’s just that nobody ever tried to see through him.”
The juxtaposition between Gon and Yunjae was in my opinion, one of the most poignant parts of the book. Towards the middle of the book Gon is introduced, and for a few chapters he is Yunjae’s tormentor. The author then further develops their relationship in such a way that they’re the only ones who truly perhaps understand each other. Which is really interesting, because how can a boy who feels too much and a boy who feels nothing have this mutual understanding and towards the end— mutual care and love for each other? I will not give spoilers but Gon and Yunjae truly have a really good friendship/relationship and by the end both the characters manage to express how much they care.
Furthermore because this is literary fiction, so the obvious focus was more on the characters than the plot, which I actually really enjoyed … maybe I should read more of this genre! Please leave me some recommendations LOL.
To conclude, I would like to say ALMOND was a truly beautiful books that explores sudden change, emotions, relationships, and just the general movement of life. AND I loved it more than anything!!
RATING: Highly Recommended!
Is this book for you?
CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, animal death, implied torture, stabbing.
PERFECT FOR: Fans of literary fiction or Asian literature, Or if you’ve read and loved the book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
THINK TWICE IF: You do not like books with extremely short chapters, and first person narration.
GENRE: Literary fiction, contemporary.
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Did you enjoy the review? Do you have any literary fiction recommendations especially books by authors of colour? Comment below and chat with me!!