Throwback | Maurene Goo


Throwback by Maurene Goo

Releasing April 11, 2023 from Zando Young Readers; 368 pages

Content Warning: Strong language, hospitalized grandparent, grandparent death (prior to story), racism, internalized racism, microaggressions, misogynistic comments, slut shaming, and underage drinking

About the Author: “Maurene Goo is the author of several acclaimed books for young adults, including I Believe in a Thing Called Love and Somewhere Only We Know. She has also written for Marvel’s Silk series. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son and cats” (Bio from author’s website).

Find Maurene Goo on the following platforms:

“Even if we can’t change the past—we can change the future.”

Samantha Kang’s high school experience couldn’t be more opposite from her mom’s. Sam has no school pride, whereas her mother, Priscilla, was a popular cheerleader and nearly homecoming royalty. When Sam gets nominated for homecoming queen, Priscilla jumps at the opportunity to get Sam the crown. Sam is… less than enthused. After a major fight with her mom, Sam uses a ride-share app called Throwback and suddenly finds herself face-to-face with teenage Priscilla. The year? 1995. Stuck decades in the past, Sam sets out to help her 17-year-old mom and hopefully get sent back home. Can’t be that hard…right?

I am so glad that I picked up Maurene Goo’s latest novel! There’s plenty to enjoy in Sam’s story; we get nostalgic references to American Girl dolls and *gasp* thriving shopping malls, and also great Korean-American representation with affectionate Korean nicknames, a scene at a Korean church, and mouth-watering food descriptions. I really enjoyed that Sam viewed her relationship with her ethnic identity in a positive light, even when dealing with microaggressions and her mom’s internalized racism. Sam and Priscilla show two very different reactions to being the child of an immigrant, and both characters are written with empathy for their respective times. Also, even though Sam complains about her mom often, she does stick up for Priscilla when other people criticize her. I appreciate the mother-daughter conflict feeling realistic while also being grounded in love. The mother-daughter dynamic is not only seen with Sam and Priscilla but also with Priscilla and Halmoni (Sam’s grandma). I rooted for all three generations of women in this story—I love having books about strong, multigenerational families. Other things I loved in the book? The whole homecoming plot! Reading about Sam’s schemes to help Priscilla win homecoming queen felt like I was watching a classic teen movie. There were hijinks and good ol’ fashioned drama, with a sprinkle of romance too. There are a few surprises in the book, and one really got me—some readers might pick up on it, but the reveal made me backtrack and reread for all the signs. The book also has a movie-worthy happily ever after, which is very important! Throwback’s combination of time travel hilarity, 90s culture, and high school angst with the nuances of intergenerational relationships and immigrant life in America makes for a truly fantastic read. Get your copy ASAP! 

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)

PRR Assistant Director, Erika Brittain