Review: The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee

Illustrated cover for The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee. A Korean-American teenage girl looks over her shoulder at a boy behind her. She has shoulder-length black hair and is wearing a green cammo jacket with white shirt and black pants. She has a crossbody bag and is holding tablet, which is displaying a webcomic. The boy on the tablet is posed just like the boy on the cover. He is wearing a black jacket, gray shirt, and gray pants, and has short black hair. The background of the cover is framed like comic panels.Title: The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee
Author: Ellen Oh
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Pages: 305
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: eARC provided via NetGalley
Availability: Available now

Summary: Mina has become the hero of her own story. Literally.

When Mina Lee woke up on Saturday morning for SAT prep, she did NOT expect

  1. Nearly be fried by a superhero who turned out to be a supervillain.
  2. Come face to face with Jin, the handsome boy of her dreams.
  3. Discover a conspiracy involving the evil corporation Merco that she created.

And it’s all happening in her fictional world. Mina is trapped in the story she created. Now it’s up to her to save everyone. Even if it means losing Jin forever.

From the award-winning author of Finding Junie Kim and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, Ellen Oh. In the speculative fiction adventure Colliding Worlds, a teenage artist grapples with her first love, grief, and learning how to take charge of her own life.

Review: [The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee contains scenes describing human medical experimentation that, while not graphic, could be unsettling for some readers. Grief is also a present theme, as Mina’s mother’s died three years ago, and the Jin in the webcomic is based on a childhood friend who died of cancer.]

If you’ve ever enjoyed a webcomic where a “real world” person ends up in a fantasy world, you should give The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee a chance. It’s a solid example of the genre while still being able to have a bit of fun with the medium itself through meta moments like Mina realizing that something big will almost definitely happen at a school dance—just because it’s a school dance, and she’s in webcomic set at a high school. A lot of tropes, events, and characters get played straight or played around with in entertaining ways, and I enjoyed Mina’s lampshading throughout.

Mina and Jin were the stars of the book, and they had a sweet, sincere webcomic romance. I enjoyed their banter and their teamwork, and Mina was a lot of fun as a narrator. I liked watching her figure out how her powers worked as the webcomic’s creator, and her commentary on genre conventions and other meta gave the story a lot of flavor. Much of the supporting cast was fairly simple, though, and I do wish there had been more time to flesh them out—especially the character that was supposed to be the hero before Mina arrived in the webcomic world.

I would consider The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee to fall on the younger end of the YA spectrum due to its writing style and breezy pace. Some of the horror isn’t as deeply explored as I would expect in an older YA, like Mina’s powers to (accidentally) force the webcomic people to conform to her storyline or the medical/body horror inherent in the villain’s schemes. That said, the book doesn’t shy away from the heavier topics of parental loss—Mina’s mother’s death is still a significant influence on Mina and her father’s lives. I also appreciated the juxtaposition of Mina’s parents’ absences: her mother to death, but present in her art; and her father to work, but present in his worry about Mina’s future.

Recommendation: Get it soon if the premise appeals to you. Ellen Oh’s The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee is a fun, comfortable high school adventure with a dose of entertaining meta on top. There are some places I wish had been explored more, but the novel is a solid entry in this genre. I finished the novel wanting to read more stories like it, and that’s a sign of a satisfying story.

Extras: Read an excerpt from the publisher