Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review: Kay's Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K. Choi

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K. ChoiKay's Lucky Coin Variety
by Ann Y.K. Choi
May 3, 2016
288 pages

Goodreads Summary:
A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s.

This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.

A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.


Kay's Lucky Coin Variety is a heartfelt story. A solid look at what it's like to be in a new place but still have to conform to the cultural ways of another. This was a book I breezed through. I found myself wanting to listen to all that the main character had to say.

One of the biggest reason I wanted to pick up Kay's Lucky Coin Variety was because like Mary, I too came to Canada at an early age. I was curious to see how my personal experiences would compare with hers. As I expected, there were definitely a few similarities along with some major differences.

First of all, I connected with Mary on a cultural level. During my childhood, there was a sense of being different. Even though contrary to her, my parents encouraged me to make friends no matter their skin colour, it was still difficult. These new friends went about things in such a different way than I did I found it hard to fit in and to feel like I belonged. I could also really identify with the need to excel at school and in extracurricular activities. Like Mary, I took piano lessons. I didn't love it or hate it but it was like there was an unspoken rule that I had to learn and play well. The expectations were just there. I also found it funny that Mary gets mistaken as Chinese because I get mistaken as Korean all the time (I'm Chinese). Hm..
On an emotional level, I didn't relate to Mary as much. The amount of resentment she had for her mom was jarring. I didn't expect her to give up control of her life but I would've liked to see her appreciate her mother more. At the same time, I thought some of the things her mom said to her were somewhat harsh and inappropriate so I can understand parts of Mary's anger and frustration. My family has never put that kind of extreme pressure on me which I'm very thankful for.
I thought Mary made some poor choices. It was like she was rebelling for the sake of rebelling. She kept things bottled inside her. Many times I wanted to shout at her to be out with them all but no, she couldn't do it. I felt so sad for the tragic events that unfolded but very content with how they affected Mary and her views. I love that she eventually comes to realize and appreciate her parents. (A shout out to my parents: thank you and I love you both very much!)
Mary's dad was beyond awesome. "You just remember to always treat everyone the way you want to be treated..." (ARC p.161). Such a simple saying but right on point.  Throughout the story, he shares his insight with Mary. He educates his daughter about the illusion of being in control and the difference between true love and infatuation. I have so much respect for him.

This was a lovely read. Parts of it gave me heartache while others had me in tears of joy. The characters were tried and true. I really enjoyed Kay's Lucky Coin Variety.
4 Cats
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinion are my own and not affected in any way. All quotes were taken from the Advance Review Copy I received.


  1. As much as I think I will be able to relate to her as well (I, too, am an immigrant), I think her poor choices would eventually drive me bonkers. And I've never been a fan of characters who don't speak up. I mean, if something's bothering you, why keep it all inside?

    1. Lol I'm totally with you Joy! It bugs me so much when people don't speak up. Especially in the situations Mary was in :(


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