Review: Throwback

The background has colorful spotlights behind two different young women. At the top there is woman holding a cell phone with an antenna. She has long straight hair and is wearing a buttoned up cardigan. She is upside down. There is a title that is also upside down written in script in white. The other title is in print and is black. The woman on the bottom is wearing a jean jacket over a black tank top. She has short hair and is wearing airpods.

Throwback by Maurene Goo
Summary: Back to the Future meets The Joy Luck Club in this YA contemporary romance about a Korean American girl sent back to the ’90s to (reluctantly) help her teenage mom win Homecoming Queen.

Being a first-generation Asian American immigrant is hard. You know what’s harder? Being the daughter of one. Samantha Kang has never gotten along with her mother, Priscilla—and has never understood her bougie-nightmare, John Hughes high school expectations. After a huge fight between them, Sam is desperate to move forward—but instead, finds herself thrown back. Way back.

To her shock, Sam finds herself back in high school . . . in the ’90s . . . with a 17-year-old Priscilla. Now this Gen Z girl must try to fit into an analog world. She’s got the fashion down, but everything else is baffling. What is “microfiche”? What’s with the casual racism and misogyny? And why does it feel like Priscilla is someone she could actually be . . . friends with?

Sam’s blast to the past has her finding the right romance in the wrong time while questioning everything she thought she knew about her mom . . . and herself. Will Sam figure out what she needs to do to fix things for her mom so that she can go back to a time she understands? Brimming with heart and humor, Maurene Goo’s time-travel romance asks big questions about what exactly one inherits and loses in the immigrant experience.


My Thoughts: Family relationships can be so incredibly complicated. In Throwback, Maurene Goo really digs into the mother-daughter dynamic. Samantha and Halmoni, her grandmother, get along very well, but her relationship with her own mother and her mom’s relationship with Halmoni are both strained. A good portion of the novel revolves around this complexities of these three relationships and what Sam discovers about them during her time jump.

I’m generally not a fan of time travel because my brain wants everything to be logical and that isn’t always possible in these scenarios. It was hilarious to watch a Gen Z person dealing with the 90s though and that more than made up for any of the squishy bits that may not actually seem possible. As with all of Maurene Goo’s books, there were so many opportunities for laughter. I thoroughly enjoyed her previous novels, Since You Asked [RiC review], I Believe in a Thing Called Love [RiC review], The Way You Make Me Feel [RiC review], and Somewhere Only We Know [RiC review], so I was really looking forward to getting my hands on Throwback and it did not disappoint.

Sam has some strong opinions and she is not afraid to voice them. I love that about her. She also doesn’t stand by and watch if someone is being unkind. She speaks up and does something about what she sees. She interrupts. She is not concerned about trying to blend in, at least most of the time. As she visits the past though and sees her mother’s life, she also realizes that parts of her life that don’t actually match up to what she truly believes and values. She learns about herself, her mother, and her grandmother which affects how she views much of her life.

Recommendation: Get it as soon as it hits the shelves in April especially if you enjoy laughing through a book. While you wait, you can grab one of Maurene Goo’s other books if you haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

Publisher: Zando Young Readers
Categories: Contemporary, historical, humor, romance
Pages: 386
Review copy: Digital ARC via publisher
Availability: Releases on April 11, 2023