by Chandra Sundeep
Almond by Won Pyung Sohn

Almond, a Korean translation, is the coming-of-age story of Yunjae, a boy who can’t feel emotions. But the story is not just about his condition and tough life. It is also the story of love, warmth, and unconditional friendships. Written by Won-Pyung Sohn, and translated by Sandy Joosun Lee, Almond is an emotional roller coaster.

The story starts with an interesting prologue, and after reading these lines, there was no way I could put down the book without finishing it in one go.

“I won’t tell you whether it has a happy ending or a tragic ending…neither you nor I nor anyone can ever really know whether a story is happy or tragic.”

Yunjae suffers from Alexythemia, a disorder that prohibits him from identifying and expressing any feelings or emotions. He lives with his mother and grandmother who dote on him a lot. On an unfortunate Christmas Eve, tragedy strikes and Yunjae’s life changes drastically. The appearance of Dr. Shim, Gon and Dora in his life not only keeps him going but also brings about a miraculous change in his life.

Since the chapters unfold from Yunjae’s perspective, the narration seems heartless and detached. And yet, it is extremely interesting how the narrator, who can’t feel emotions, triggers emotions in the readers. The story progresses in three parts, and we see Yunjae growing through the years, from a child to a teen. Won-Pyung Sohn has paid in-depth attention to the character’s growth in maturity and it is reflected in the narration.

Absolute hits –
  • Age-appropriate vocabulary
  • Good pace (though the third part is slightly rushed)
  • Brief chapters
  • Beautiful writing, with many thought provoking lines
  • Flawed characters
  • Truthful depiction of Korean society and culture
A few misses –

Even though Gon plays an important role in the story, his character is not fully explored. His story is really sad, and it made me angry and helpless. I would have loved to read more about him, his conflicted past and uncertain future. But then it is Yunjae’s story, and probably that’s why the author stopped short of fully exploring Gon’s character. Dr. Shim’s generosity comes clearly, and his back story is well developed too.

Dora’s appearance is abrupt, and the effect of her friendship on the narrator left me conflicted in terms of the message it conveys to the young readers—love is a magical potion and can cure all problems!

Adult readers might find the story a tad bit predictable, and the ending too convenient and neatly tied. But, if you can shed the crown of adulthood, you will enjoy it thoroughly.

Almond is an emotional, thought-provoking story about human ties, with universal appeal. Fans of Wonder will enjoy Yunjae’s story.

Few favourite quotes-

the words “emotion” and “empathy” are just meaningless letters in print.

Luck plays a huge part in all the unfairness of the world. Even more than you’d expect.

Books took me to places I could never go otherwise. They shared the confessions of people I’d never met and lives I’d never witnessed. The emotions I could never feel, and the events I hadn’t experienced, could all be found in those volumes.

I’ve decided to confront it. Confront whatever life throws at me, as I always have. And however much I can feel, nothing more, nothing less.

TW—death, bullying, violence, injury, coma, butterfly torture (not a detailed description, but still…) Also, references to classic porn.


Wordsopedia Rating 4.5/5

Title: Almond Author: Won-pyung Sohn
Publisher: HarperVia Publication date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Fiction – Young Adult Format: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780062961372 No. of Pages: 272

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the author

Sohn Won-pyung is a South Korean novelist and filmmaker. She has won two literary awards: in 2016 for Amondeu and in 2017 for Seoreunui bangyeok. Sohn’s novels explore the meaning of human existence and growth, and are characterized by the use of unique characters and rapid plot development.

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