Maureen Goo is an author of several acclaimed books for young adults, including I Believe in A Thing Called Love and Somewhere Only We Know. She also wrote for Marvel’s Silk series. Currently, she lives and writes in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and cats. Her newest book is Throwback, a time-travel-romantic-comedy feel-good. The protagonist Samantha, a Korean American, finds herself taken back from 2025 to 1995 in Los Angeles. It is her job to uncover why she’s been sent back to October 12, 1995. Samantha finds herself rubbing shoulders with her mother as a mean girl teen at the same school, finding out quickly that she needs to resolve the rocky relationship that is between her mother and grandmother in a timely fashion or else she’ll risk being stuck in time forever.
Spirited Samantha and her prim and proper mother Priscilla do not get along. Samantha also notices that her mother and grandmother have an unspoken difference between them. Samantha gets thrown into the past right after a big argument with her mother and amid her comatose grandmother who is at the hospital. Three women and their delicate relationship unwind at the thread. Samantha was brought to the past for a purpose and it has something to do with her family’s relationship on the stitch. Samantha morphs into someone she previously was not. She ends up playing the role as the dutiful daughter that she ought to be and takes in all the guilt of familial obligation on her shoulders. This is a relatable story of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, but more than anything is about the “what if” an American daughter of an immigrant family fulfills a generational burden with stakes higher than one can truly fathom.
When Samantha gets back to 90’s Los Angeles, she is thrown back before the term “P.O.C.” and before everyone knows what being politically correct is. As she navigates her way in a magically newfound terrain, she faces sly misogyny as a heterosexual woman and casual racism as an Asian American. Her circumstances reveal how far society has come to an equitable future, but also how far technology has progressed since the 90’s. The portrayed contrast of generational differences is done in a clever and humorous manner as charming but fiery Samantha lightens (or disrupts) the mood through her sarcasm and wit. She frequently finds herself accidentally sharing future subtleties, awkwardly bumbles her way through using generation Z lingo, and faces frequent hijinks while on her time traveling journey.
This book is a portrait of a multi-generational family of Korean women. It features Korean culture, mannerisms, language, and food. Each woman wears a different Korean identity and is seen through the characters of Samantha, Priscilla, and the grandmother. In fact, the women in this family live delectably different lives. Their individual stories slowly unravel where each experience is palatable. Furthermore, the author shows assimilation and loss of tradition through a matrilineal, multi-generational perspective.
It is not until Samantha travels back in time and literally is in her mother’s shoes to see her slice in life. All it took for Samantha to understand familial differences were to go back, and way back in time, but perhaps for good? This story oozes with tough themes like the immigrant story, complicated relationships, and having to navigate the world as a coming-of-age woman. This book is a throwback, almost an aesthetic ode, to a campus quirky 90’s Los Angeles. It is filled with generation Z politics in an era unwilling to acknowledge one’s nuanced identity and “wokeness.” This is a story cliché with girl meets guy and time travel plot, but is heartfelt with a Korean twist. Will Samantha be able to patch up the hiccups in her family’s relationship, or will she fail and not be able to get back home to 2025?