Book Review: Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

November 14th, 2021 by

Recently, I was hanging out with a 7-year-old who asked me to tell him some jokes. I wasn’t expecting the request, and my mind went completely blank. I failed to remember any jokes I had ever heard before — so I tried to make up a few of my own. Let me tell you, it was much harder than I expected! In the course of our two hours together, I came up with a total of four jokes. If you’re interested, you can find them at the end of this post, but be warned, they got way more groans than laughter.

Obviously I’m no expert, but after that experience, I can kind of relate to the struggles of the main character in Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim. An aspiring comedian, Yumi spends hours scribbling in her notebook, watching YouTube tutorials from her comedy idol Jasmine Jasper, and practicing her routine by herself. She’s got tons of funny material, but the problem is her delivery. Yumi gets super nervous every time she tries to perform — even when she’s all alone in her room!

Fortunately, Yumi gets a chance to learn from the very best and improve her skills when she finds herself at a comedy camp taught by Jasmine Jasper herself. But there’s a major problem: Jasmine and everyone else mistake Yumi for a student named Kay Nakamura, a student who paid for camp but never showed up. So now Yumi is pretending to be Kay in order to join the camp, and she feels terrible for lying to Jasmine and her new friends.

And did I mention that Yumi is also lying to her parents, who think that she’s studying at the library every afternoon? If they knew Yumi was at comedy camp, they would be furious — not just about the deception but also because they’ve told Yumi over and over again that she needs to focus on academics, like her perfect older sister who’s already in medical school at the age of 20. But Yumi is not her sister! She just wants to pursue comedy and be herself — even if that means pretending to be someone else…

I absolutely loved loved loved this book. Unsurprisingly, it’s full of funny jokes, plus plenty of amusing antics as Yumi sneaks around and attempts to cover up her lies. But the book is also very moving. While I laughed at Yumi’s comedy, I also cried at some of her conversations with her parents. On the one hand, they act as a barrier between Yumi and her comedy dreams. But on the other hand, they’re working hard to provide for their kids — and they have their own challenges they’re dealing with, as their beloved family restaurant is losing business.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, especially stories about finding your way or making peace with your family. I think you’ll particularly like Stand Up, Yumi Chung! if you’re a fan of books about comedians (like the I Funny series) or books about immigrant families (like Front Desk and Measuring Up).

And now, I leave you with my original jokes — which could definitely benefit from some help from Yumi and Jasmine… Please share YOUR favorite jokes in the comments!

Karen’s Mediocre Jokes:

Why are potatoes such good spies?
They have eyes everywhere!

What did the field of corn say to the man who had a secret?
We’re all ears!

Why didn’t the cherry want to date the banana in the sundae?
He just didn’t have a peel! (a peel = appeal, get it?)

What are the best vegetables for announcing you have visitors arriving at your home?
Doorbell peppers!

(And yes, I realize all of these jokes are related to food. I had to go with what I know best, right?)

— Karen

Karen’s favorite knock knock joke involves an interrupting cow.

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