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Cover reveal! From the author of The Noh Family, comes Not Your Average Jo. This YA standalone follows a Korean American teen as she navigates the treacherous world of nepo babies and cultural appropriation that is the Los Angeles music scene. Perfect for fans of Mary H. K. Choi, Maurene Goo, and Becky Albertalli.

Riley Jo is a teenager who knows what she wants. Born and raised in Bentonville, Arkansas, this Korean American girl has her sights set on being a musician. So when her parents are surprisingly cool about her attending the prestigious Los Angeles-based arts-focused boarding school her senior year of high school, she jumps at the chance. This is her moment to make her indie rock dreams a reality! 

Things at Carlmont Academy start out strong: She joins a band, and they set out to make plans to perform at the annual spring concert—with a chance to land a record contract. Another student, Xander, decides his school project will be a documentary about the band leading up to their first show. But not everything goes how Riley Jo imagined. She is soon sidelined when her other bandmates feel she is “too Asian” to be their lead singer, and they choose her classmate Bodhi Collins for the role instead.

Bodhi is rock music royalty, with a dad who is a famous music exec. And he’s got the “all-American rock star look.” Her classmates suggest she try making K-pop,  but her heart is in indie rock. Riley Jo decides to take matters into her own hands and writes an original song to showcase her talent. But Bodhi takes the credit…and given his connections, the band lets him.

Xander captures all of this in his film, which he leaks in order to show the truth behind the band. Riley Jo decides to sign up for the spring concert and perform on her own . . . but will she finally be able to take center stage?

Scroll down to see the cover and read a sneak peek, and remember to preorder your copy here.

Designer: Kristin Boyle, Artist: Doejin Lee

Driving down the 405 freeway, with the sun setting behind the palm-tree lined pavement, it’s beginning to hit me. I’m in LA. I look around at the cars, different as the people driving them. Already everything feels bigger here. Even the freeway is six lanes wide. The stop-and-go traffic is making me antsy, like a song that starts and stops just as it gains momentum. I wish we could be there already.

            I turn on the radio to distract me. I’m not familiar with the stations here, so I scroll through each one, stopping just long enough to hear the song playing before I go to the next one. Three consecutive radio stations—102.7, 103.5, 104.3—are playing the same Skyler Twist song. At the same time, we pass by a billboard with a larger-than-life-sized Skylar Twist, with her signature blonde curls and pink lips, popping out at us. At first I’m startled by it. Guess I thought LA would have a wider song selection on its radio stations or different idols since it’s so much bigger than Bentonville[, Arkansas]. Then again, it shouldn’t be so surprising since Skylar’s songs have been topping the charts for pretty much the past five consecutive years.

            “Imagine being the biggest star in the world,” I say thinking aloud. So far, music has been the only way I can express myself fully. Being a big star that big would mean people wouldn’t just mean they understand my art—they’d understand me.

            “I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like,” Mom says. “I’m sure you’d hate it.”

            “Why would you say that?” I say, reflexively.

            “No freedom? No privacy?” She shakes her head. “That’s no life.”

            Obviously we have different opinions about what having a life means. To me, getting called Tiffany half the time, because she’s the “other Asian girl” in our class; being asked by our neighbors to host a Chinese New Year block party even though we’re Korean; living in Bentonville my whole life and still having to explain I’m from Bentonville—that’s no life.

            For all the shade she was throwing on Skylar, my mom starts singing the song, doing the motions in her seated positions. She’s got serious moves, but they’re not like the ones on Skylar’s music video.

            “What’s that move you’re doing mom?” I try to mimic her motions. She’s going side to side, moving her arms forward and back in unison when the car is in stationary position. It actually looks cool.

            “The CitiRokk.” She glances sideways at me. “You don’t know it? It’s new trend on TikTok.”

            Mom’s on TikTok? I’m not even on TikTok.

            You know what’s even more weird? Is that she has this cool-mom demeanor, like she’s the moms on tv sitcoms. She jokes, uses language I hear my peers use, and makes me feel like she’d understand what I’m going through. But every time I try to talk to her about me, like my music, or the way micro aggressions make me feel, she makes me feel like I’m too much for her. Sometimes I wonder, if my own mom can’t understand me, who will?

Penguin Teen