Image from author. Top: Sprig of Flowering Almond in a Glass by Vincent Van Gogh.
On March 31, 2017 the novel Almond was published by Sohn Won-pyung. This novel is about a young boy, Yunjae, and his life journey with Alexithymia. Alexithymia is a disorder caused by underdeveloped amygdalae, which limits a person’s ability to identify and describe emotions. Yunjae is unable to interact with other people “normally” since he is monotonous and shows no emotion. Despite his lack of sympathy and empathy, his grandmother, mother, and unique friend Gon provide him with a content life.
Many of the main scenes in this novel involve multiple emotions at once, which made the novel intriguing to read. In the beginning we see how Yunjae’s mother is trying many different methods to train him to express simple emotions and phrases so he can be “normal” and communicate with others smoothly. Some readers may relate to the idea of not knowing how to express themselves or reach out to others. “In some ways, I can relate to him because I’ve always pondered the idea of what being normal is and what fitting in meant,” says Claire Chang, a junior at WHS. Yunjae knows he is different but this does not phase him. On the other hand, his grandmother is accepting of who he is and does not try to pressure him to change. Both his mom and grandmother are trying in their own unique way to guide him through a confusing world he cannot fully understand yet. They are the heart of his small world and bring love into his life.
A big part of this book circles around how Yunjae survives and grows after his mother and grandmother are publicly stabbed by a psychotic man on his birthday. He has no visual reaction, but ends up having an existential crisis. He starts to constantly ponder the meaning of life and why this happened. He went from having stability and comfort to being on his own with no one to rely on. During this transition he is able to gain motivation to keep going and he meets supportive people that have a great impact on his life. One important person Yunjae meets is Gon. Their relationship starts off on the wrong foot and is a little complex, but in the end they become platonic soulmates. Gon is an anarchic young boy, whom no one admires, who is stumped by Yunjae’s apathetic personality. Yunjae thinks that if he stays by Gon’s side, then he will be able to experience true feelings. Both of them are drawn by curiosity and form a unique friendship. As the story unfolds we begin to see Yunjae progress in his understanding of emotions. By the end of the novel Yunjae has started to form the ability to express himself.
The author’s curiosity about human existence and growth is reflected in her characters. Sohn Won-pyung is new to motherhood and wanted to know if she could have endless love for her children regardless of the situation. Could she love her children equally, regardless if they had a disability, or if they were rebellious? She created unique characters as an experiment to see whether her love would be unbreakable.The content in this novel was captivating while not being cliched. “It impacted my point of view on the world by showing me a perspective I have never seen before,” says Amy Diep, a junior at WHS. Considering Almond’s high ratings with a 4.6 out of 5 stars, this book should definitely be added to the “Must Read” list.
Isabella Shimizu is a junior at Washington High School. She was born and raised in Fremont, California. This is her first year with The Hatchet. She hopes to cover stories about the arts and important events in the Washington community. Isabella enjoys playing badminton and tennis for the school. In her free time she loves to bake, read, play with her shih tzu poodle, and listen to Wave to Earth. In the future she hopes to attend a UC and pursue a major in the STEM field.