2 star, adult

Review: So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

When investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off in a virtual meeting and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out. 

After moving back home to Tennessee to live with her loving but meddling mother and father, she runs into her childhood nemesis – golden child Daniel Choi – at the local Asian grocery store. The smart, charming lawyer appears to have it all…while Jessie has nothing.

Jess begrudgingly accepts Daniel’s help to relaunch her long abandoned Korean cooking YouTube channel Hanguk Hacks, showcasing easy meal prep for busy professionals. But just as she discovers Daniel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and there’s more to him than meets the eye, he shows up for a life-changing business opportunity, and their rivalry is back on….

I have to stop thinking that Suzanne’s adult books are going to be like other romances. To be honest, they fit more in women’s fiction as a genre than romance since it’s not the major focus of the books. It skews all of my expectations which also unfortunately impacts how I see her writing (which isn’t terrible or anything per se but just not what I was expecting coming into it).

So We Meet Again is very similar to her debut adult novel, following a career-focused Korean American woman in an area dominated by men. There’s very blatant sexist comments directed at our protagonist, Jessie, which I expected from the synopsis yet still dug under my skin and boiled my blood. I understand they’re there to show what she’s up against but I will warn it can be quite triggering.

I have an appreciation for what Suzanne is trying to do here and the message she’s trying to portray, but I did have things I just didn’t like or agree with in this book.

1) Jessie

I just didn’t really like her as a character at times. With our romantic love interest, Daniel, she’s often rude and downright petty towards him. Sure, they had some competitive middle school thing going on when they were kids, but they’re grown ups now and she really should get over it. Their “competition” wasn’t even really founded on anything bad, just a way of using one another to push farther and harder, made maybe sometimes worse by parental comparisons. I just don’t understand why she was so adamantly against him at times, and being in her head was exhausting.

2) The Asian stereotypes

I think this is definitely something more about me than necessarily everyone would dislike, but I’m just getting sick of seeing certain caricatures of the Asian community in literature. I’m not saying these things don’t happen in real life (they do for sure), but I wish sometimes that it’s not the only portrayal in every Asian-led book I’ve read.

For example, there’s the gossipy Korean church ladies that spread every sordid detail of absolutely anything worth talking about like wildfire. Definitely happens at times but is this just another common portrayal of Christian Koreans? (I think of these exact scenes from Kim’s Convenience). Oh, and when there are potlucks or other church events with food, Asian people (whether they’re in need of a bit of charity or not) of course would bring Tupperware to pack as much as possible of the free food for a few meals down the road, like we’re all cheap. For sure some people gladly need this and I have no negative feelings about that at all. I just feel it adds to the stereotype of cheap Asians for the fact that these details are so minor and irrelevant to the overall story.

3) The romance with Daniel

With the way Jessie treated Daniel more than half the time in the book, I’m surprised they ever got together. It’s definitely NOT the focus of the story but I just didn’t understand why Jessie suddenly did an about face and decided to fall for him. Even more than that, I don’t understand why Daniel would continue to be kind to her when she’s nothing but suspicious of his kind offers of help in entrepreneurial connections or advice. It felt like everything became water under the bridge suddenly but I had no idea how it got there in the first place.

The only enjoyable aspects?

Definitely the food. I love the concept of Jessie’s business, to market an Asian twist to boring meal kit boxes. As a young adult who actually uses meal kit boxes to help with meals during the busy work week, this hit close to home. It’s exciting to see the actual interesting idea this is be brought out in an entrepreneurial way, and the steps Jessie took to expand her idea into a business.

Was it super realistic that she’d immediately get the kind of connections and breaks she needed in such a short time period for her business? Not necessarily, but I suppose that’s why this is fiction. Either way, it was interesting to see the way she (and her cute parents) tackle different problems in the business that came her way.

If you take away the romance and come into this novel as a contemporary fiction tackling issues like sexism in the workplace and Asian representation in young entrepreneurs, this would be a great book. I don’t feel the romance added much to it. If that’s what you’re looking for, please check out Suzanne Park’s novels. If not, you may need to reconsider a little.

Overall Recommendation:

So We Meet Again is more a contemporary than romantic contemporary as we follow young entrepreneur Jessie in her journey to open her own business after a fallout with her sexist company on Wall Street. The sexism present can be rather overwhelming although I understand why it’s there. What I struggled with was Jessie and her unfair treatment towards her love interest, Daniel, for most of the book. With barely any chemistry there, the only highlight is the unique food business idea Jessie created and the Asian culture and food represented here. If that’s what you’re looking for, by all means read this, but otherwise, expectations need to be adjusted.

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