Almond tells the story of Yunjae, a boy diagnosed with alexithymia – a dysfunction in which one is unable to identify, name, and communicate emotions. Paradoxically, the novel plays with the readers’ emotions very well. What do friends feel when life pushes them to the extreme in a social conflict? What happens to a victim of school bullying who feels no fear or sadness?
Sohn Won-pyung’s novel got quite popular when the k-pop idol group BTS was seen reading it. However, we recommend taking it with a grain of salt. Although the story contains lengthy descriptions of alexithymia, these can not be treated as a reliable source on the condition – the writer’s approach is psychologically inadequate, and the illness is often demonized or portrayed as the only distinguishing characteristic of the main character. On the other hand, you will find here valuable elements that are rare to come across in literature, like the motive of an unlikely friendship between a person who survived a terrorist attack and somebody who plans such an attack. As much as the overwhelming catastrophe and bad luck are improbable, they offer some kind of katharsis for readers who like to immerse themselves in a story.
Almond is sure to polarize readers. Some of the scientifically suspicious descriptions of the dysfunctions and illnesses, psychologically unbelievable actions and out-of-proportion reactions may discourage you from reading but submerging in the daily life of a character, the relationships and problems, the whole spectrum of emotions – those elements will surely draw many of us.