Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz [in Booklist]
As explosive growth transforms 1970s South Korea into an international powerhouse, sociopolitical upheaval becomes unavoidable in daily life. Into the maelstrom of such spectacular change, first-novelist Grace Yoojin Wuertz – Seoul-born, U.S.-raised, Yale- and NYU-degreed – drops two women onto the elite campus of Seoul National University.
Jisun is there by birthright as the daughter of a wealthy, powerful businessman, but she eschews her privilege to live with factory workers, join demonstrations, get arrested, and aid underground organizations. In contrast, Namin has outperformed everyone to gain entry; her singular goal of becoming a medical doctor equals her family’s escape from poverty. The girls’ childhood best-friendship falters as each twentysomething faces complex crises against the backdrop of a nation-in-the-remaking.
Wuertz assuredly bears witness to the tumult of her birth country: clashes with U.S. occupiers, the widening divide between haves and have-nots, the dismantling of traditional family structures, the impending end of a dictatorship, and the possibilities of a future when everything might belong to a generation not fully prepared for the challenges to come. An absorbing debut destined for major lists and nominations.