Set in the Bronx in the 80s, this debut novel is centered around Joon-Mee, a 12-year-old Korean-American girl who leaves her troubled family for a life on the streets. Over the next six years she lives in a homeless shelter, abandoned buildings and squats, finds work as an escort, a dancer, and an Avon lady, falls prey to drug addiction and petty crime, and tries to turn it all around. It's a bit depressing and bleak, but in a wholly compelling way. I really loved this book.
The book's small size--what I've found to be the "precious literary gem" size that publishers use when they want to speak to a certain audience--along with the spare understated design, lends it a reserved, elegant quality. (The gem size works!) And for some reason I love the hints of buildings peeking out at the top.