Twelve-year-old Jordan has been feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders ever since a month ago when he and his father—Appa—had the Big Fight. Jordan’s Korean parents had immigrated to Los Angeles nine years before in pursuit of the American dream—a better future—for Jordan and his older sister Sarah. But it seems that Jordan can never meet his parents’ expectations. In fact, during the Big Fight, Appa told Jordan that he was his “biggest disappointment,” and now they no longer speak to each other.
On April 29, 1992, Jordan returned home from school early because he’s been suspended for cheating on tests one too many times. To his surprise, Umma—his mother—and Appa are already home from their store. What is happening? They’re never home this early in the day.
Even though Umma urges Sarah and Jordan not to worry, it’s clear that Los Angeles is on the brink of catastrophe because four police officers have been acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, indisputably documented on film, and a Korean store owner who shot and killed Latasha Harlins has been acquitted of the murder of the Black teen.
When Appa leaves to board up their store in an area directly in the path of the chaos, Jordan decides he must do something—he will bring Appa his gun! Though Appa told Jordan never to touch the weapon, Jordan ignores the warning because he is motivated by a desire to protect Appa and prove to him that he isn’t a total failure. After Jordan removes the bullets, he hides the gun in his knapsack, and sets out for the store. Jordan’s dangerous journey through the city, now under a state of emergency, is by turns terrifying and enlightening, and, in the longest night of his young life, he discovers help from unexpected quarters, a deeper understanding of the complexity of his family members, and relational healing.
Though this emotionally gripping, fast-paced middle-grade novel is recommended for children ages 8-12, it is better suited for ages 11 and older due to its exploration of themes such as gun violence, racism, immigration trauma, police injustice, and the horrors of the Los Angeles riots. Contains some profanity. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)