Blog Tour: When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley

Yu-jin is gifted.
Yu-jin is loved.
Yu-jin is flourishing.

Yu-jin is dead.

When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend Yu-jin has taken her own life, he’s sure it can’t be true. She was successful, happy, just on the cusp of graduating and claiming the future she’d always dreamed of.

After growing up in California, where he always felt ‘too Korean’ to fit in, Min has never felt quite the same certainty as Yu-jin about his life’s path. Unable to accept that she could have done this, Min throws himself into finding out what really happened to her.

But the more Min discovers, the more lost he feels. With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

What I Thought:

When We Fell Apart is an engaging debut novel from Soon Wiley. Drawing on his own dual heritage, he brings us Min, the son of a white American father and Korean-American mother. Min has felt less and less at home in the US, so heads to Seoul to try and find some sense of a good fit for his life. After his girlfriend Yu-jin seemingly takes her own life, Min is left wondering how well he actually knew Yu-jin and the many aspects of her life – will solving the riddle of her death bring him closure?

I thought this was an incredible book, asking questions about how well we know our loved ones if they choose to conceal things from us. The dual narrative in which we hear from both Min and Yu-jin reveals the truth about Min and Yu-jin’s relationship, and it’s not at all as Min had assumed.

Min himself is a really interesting character, struggling with what I’m sure many people with dual heritage do, in trying to fit in with both cultures, and being accepted in neither. In this respect, Yu-jin’s death helps Min in realising that, instead of searching for a place that fits, he needs to go out and create a space for himself – whether he is successful in this we won’t find out, but his ending is at least hopeful.

The most intriguing aspect of the book is looking at Yu-jin’s life from her perspective in a Korea that is seemingly forward-looking and modern, but still hides beneath the surface a dislike of difference and an unhealthy attitude of reliance and shame within families. Although Yu-jin has always been loved, she has also never pushed back against the demands of her father, and has striven to be the best academically and build a future in her father’s image. When she moves to Seoul for University, she begins to spread her wings and find her own sources of joy, which don’t meet with her family’s approval. Her realisation of how this taste of independence is just that, a taste, which she will be forced to abandon is quite tragic and it’s written so beautifully and with such empathy.

It’s a bold move to have Yu-jin’s death take place so early on in the book, but it really works here, as we unravel how this came to be – the fact that we know that the book is always moving to that conclusion makes Yu-jin’s early, hopeful narrative all the more devastating.

When We Fell Apart is published by Simon & Schuster.

About the Author:

A native of Nyack, New York, Soon Wiley received his BA in English & Philosophy from Connecticut College. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and earned him fellowships in Wyoming and France. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and their two cats. When We Fell Apart is his debut novel.

This is the final day of the blog tour for When We Fell Apart – check out some of the other fantastic blogs that have been taking part:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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