Patricia Park’s Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim is an engrossing young adult novel. It’s one of those books that pulls you in immediately and doesn’t let go.
Alejandra Kim has felt like an imposter since she first became a student at her preppy Quaker Oats school. She can’t forget she’s there due to a 90% scholarship, so she tries not to ruffle anyone’s feathers and reminds herself of her father’s words that she’s a guest there and to act accordingly.
Racist teacher comment? Laugh it off. Privileged wealthy classmates blowing gobs of money on lunch while she orders a six dollar tea? Brush it off. With the unexpected death of her father earlier that year, Alejandra has more to worry about than the short-term problems she finds at her high school, even if they cut deeper than she lets on.
Alejandra’s code switching as she moves between her worlds is portrayed with precision and accuracy that shows how those hurts build up. Every time a classmate calls her Ally, versus her family and friends calling her Ale, every moment she makes herself smaller, shoves her emotions deeper, every instance she douses her fire to make others more comfortable– it adds up, building, growing. She’s convinced she just has to endure it until she can make her escape to her dream college, far away from NYC, her mom, and the place her father died.
But the grass isn’t always greener, and doing what it takes to get into this school takes its own toll on Ale, her friends, and their relationships.
There is so much this novel does perfectly. The first person narrative voice captures Alejandra’s internal struggles. Her codeswitching, especially, is highlighted through her narrative lens. At school, she’s Ally, Laurel’s best friend who doesn’t cause trouble; at home, she’s Ale who feels guilty about impulsive words she said to her parents; at work, she’s Ale the cousin and Ale the worker and Ale who can read their upper-class clientele like a book; with her friend Billy, she’s Ale, childhood friend and crush who may have crushed his heart. With all these versions of Alejandra Kim floating around, Ale doesn’t know who she wants to be, let alone where she fits.
Imposter Syndrome encapsulates many themes, from universal teen stuff (realizing everyone is going through something) and mental health to BIPOC experiences such as belonging, immigrant experiences, code-switching, and constantly feeling like you aren’t enough in some way or another. At times, Ale feels as if she isn’t Latinx enough, or Korean enough, or even smart enough to be at her private high school. There is so much overlap between experiences. Park beautifully shows not only that overlap, but also areas where singular experiences occur.
This is one of those books that is just so good, all around, that even writing the review is hard. I just want to shove it in your hands and say, “read this! It’s amazing!”
These relatable characters in a vibrant setting deal with applicable issues teens — and everyone, honestly– are coming up amidst.
Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim is now available. Thank you to author Patricia Park, RandomHouse Children’s, and NetGalley for an advanced e-ARC such that I could share my honest opinions.
You can purchase Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim from Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.