Title: How to Greet Fear
Author: Kim Yi-yun
Genre: Young adult literature
LTI Korea staff: Claire Kyung Jin (firstname.lastname@example.org / +82-2-6919-7732)
About the book
How to Greet Fear is the fifth winner of the Changbi Young Adult Literature Award, previously awarded to other well-received and exemplary youth literature such as Wandeuki, Wizard Bakery and Sinker. How to Greet Fear tells the memorable story of Yeoyeo, a high school sophomore who faces the loss of her mother to cancer, learns to endure difficult ordeals and ultimately emerges stronger from her life-changing experiences. A coming-of-age novel for all of us who inevitably have to bid our parents farewell The experience of loss is a growing pain every teenager goes through. In saying good-byes to our family members, friends or teachers, we are left with scars but, we also become tougher. The story’s protagonist, Yeoyeo, is confronted with many losses. With a single mother who has terminal cancer, a father unaware of her existence, a boyfriend with whom she splits… nothing is easy for the eighteen-year-old Yeoyeo. The author composedly writes out how Yeoyeo takes her challenges a day at a time with her head held high, and through it, she communicates that turmoil and hardship leave impressions on our souls. In the story, Yeoyeo meets her father for the first time at a summer economics course for youth. While delivering a lecture, her father says life is like a unicycle—that failures and treading backward are also a part of life. Yeoyeo subsequently learns to ride a unicycle, with her father’s words ringing in her mind. And in her self-pledged oath that she will never lose herself even in the darkest times, readers glimpse a promising future for the young protagonist. The protagonist’s positive energy outshines the weighty subjects of cancer and death What stands out most in How to Greet Fear is Yeoyeo’s character. Yeoyeo is collected and resilient, and these sides of her radiate as she struggles through the complex situation she has been placed in. She knows her mother will be heaven-bound soon, but she doesn’t break down or blame God. Yeoyeo lives home alone after her mother seeks healing in the countryside, and she faithfully attends school and even manages to go on dates with a school senior she likes. And in the meantime, she prepares to stand alone on her own two feet. In saying, “I am standing alone so that I can shine,” readers get a sense of her positive outlook and strength. The title of the book, How to Greet Fear, is loosely inspired by an excerpt from French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s poem that reads, “All that is over. Today, I know how to celebrate beauty.” It implies that pain is in the past, and that now, Yeoyeo knows how to tackle new fears. It contains the author’s wish that teen readers not fear unknown emotions that they will feel—rather, they will boldly greet them head-on, and discover how to deal with despair, as Yeoyeo did.
▶ Brief summary
It has always been the two of them: high school sophomore Yeoyeo and her feminist photographer mother. Yeoyeo is not aware of the identity of her father, but life has been peaceful and unassuming for them. So when Yeoyeo learns of her mother’s cancer, her world is turned upside down. Afraid that her mother will depart from this world soon, Yeoyeo seeks out a longtime friend of her mother’s and inquires about her father. She finds out that he is the Director Seo Dongsu of A Group. Yeoyeo reveals what she’s found to her best friend Semi, and the two attend a summer economics course for teens where he is scheduled to give a seminar. Around this time, Yeoyeo starts developing feelings for a school senior. Her mother’s situation makes her feel guilty about her newfound desires, but nevertheless, she cannot repress her feelings. Unfortunately, their relationship is short-lived and Yeoyeo sets out on what is to be a final trip with her frail mother. Upon returning home, her mother passes away. Grappling with nightmares following her mother’s death, Yeoyeo finds comfort from her father, but ultimately never tells him who she is. On the day before summer break starts, Semi hands Yeoyeo 99 pills for her to take whenever her heart aches. Semi tells her not to be in so much pain as to need 100 pills. At these words, a teary smile forms on Yeoyeo’s face.
About the author
Born 1964. Since 1993, Kim has been writing for the MBC radio program “Women’s Era,” a well-loved radio talk show that is always at the top spot in the number of listeners. In tandem with her solid career as a writer for radio programs, Kim has pursued a quieter path in writing stories—presenting them as gifts to her daughter on occasions such as birthdays or entrance ceremonies. She rose to prominence as the winner of the fifth Changbi Young Adult Literature Award for her novel, How to Greet Fear. She has also written short stories for teens in young adult anthologies such as, Maeummeokda (2012) and the Temperature of Our Connection (2015).
About the translators
Adrienne Kim was born in Stony Brook, NY, in 1987. Since then, she’s lived half of her life in North America, and the other half in Asia. She recently graduated from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies with a Master’s in Translation and Interpretation. Her areas of interest include literature, culture and science. She adores her odd but loving family, her quirky but supportive friends, reading and traveling. She's likely to be found at a local coffee shop, sipping on an Americano and pouring over her latest translation assignment.
Media Response/Awards Received
Recipient of the fifth Changbi Young Adult Literature Award
Excellent Literature Novel selected by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2012
A very absorbing book that weaves an intricate story of an amiable character named Yeoyeo and the episodes she finds herself in.
A teenage girl’s realization that, “pain leaves traces that are surprisingly beautiful,” is bound to resonate deep within readers.
– Segye Ilbo
Unassumingly written without fancy or colorful jargon, but the layers of humble writing form a work of art that reverberates within the reader. The modest narrative candidly captures the character’s personality. The author takes a sometimes deep, other times refreshing, perspective on a familiar topic.
- 5th Changbi Young Adult Literature Commentary