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Lia Park and the Missing Jewel

Book #1 of Lia Park
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About The Book

Perfect for fans of the Storm Runner and Aru Shah series, this “intriguing, fast-paced” (Kirkus Reviews) middle grade fantasy follows a young girl who must venture to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King in Korea to save her parents from an evil diviner spirit.

Twelve-year old Lia Park just wants to fit in. Her parents work with a mysterious organization that makes them ridiculously overprotective. Lia’s every move has been scrutinized since she was born, and she’d love to have the option of doing something exciting for once. So when she gets invited to the biggest birthday party of the year—and her parents say she can’t go—Lia sneaks out.

But her first act of rebellion not only breaks her parents’ rules, but also an ancient protection spell, allowing an evil diviner spirit to kidnap and ransom her parents for a powerful jewel that her family has guarded for years. With just the clothes on her back and some very rusty magical skills, Lia finds herself chasing mysterious clues that take her to her grandmother’s home in Korea.

From there, she has to make their way to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King, the only person who knows where the powerful jewel might be. Along with her friend, Joon, Lia must dig deep and find courage to stand up for those who are weak—and become the hero her parents need.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Left foot forward, left foot back, right foot forward, right foot back. I closed my eyes and moved to the sound of the beating drum. My arms swept through the air as I drew a figure eight using alternating circular motions.

“Loosen your legs, Lia. You need to relax,” instructed Master Jinho.

“Ne, Seonsaengnim.” Yes, teacher. Even before he said it, I knew. Nerves had gotten the best of me, and my legs were too stiff. I tightened the belt around my uniform and took a deep breath to clear my mind.

In front of me, Joon stepped in perfect rhythm with the drum. To the untrained eye, it probably looked like we were dancing. But this was actually a pretty deadly practice called Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art. Even before Taekkyeon was officially listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, we’ve been practicing it for centuries. Keeping it alive.

Joon glanced at the holographic image of Master Jinho shooting out from the silver box in the middle of the room.

Master Jinho clapped his hands and, to no one’s surprise, said, “Excellent pumbalbgi, Joon.”

I wanted to roll my eyes, but I smiled and nodded in agreement. Pumbalbgi, or Stepping-on-Triangles footwork, was super important, and today Joon had it down.

Maybe I’d be just as relaxed as Joon if my magic power manifested like his had. Everyone knew that if you didn’t have any inkling of magic by the age of twelve, it was most likely something that would never happen.

I turned twelve a few months ago.

Normally, I was pretty good at Taekkyeon. But I couldn’t concentrate today. Feelings of dread welled up in the pit of my stomach. I knew how all this would end. Not well.

Because, too bad for me, the annual exam to get into the International Magic Agency–sponsored school had three parts: Taekkyeon, academics, and magic.

It really wasn’t fair. I was so much better than Joon, but he could do the one thing I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried.

“We’ll do one round of sparring,” Master Jinho said as he sat down on a chair.

“Ne!” We strapped on chest guards and helmets. I patted my arms and legs. This was supposed to stimulate blood flow and circulation.

After a brief moment, we faced each other and focused on our footwork, swaying back and forth. The key was to maintain eye contact, read the situation, and react quickly.

Joon lifted up his left leg and kicked me. I deflected it with my arm and slapped his foot out of the way. Without missing a beat, I immediately responded with a high kick that landed square on the side of his helmet. Joon fell backward with a yelp.

“There we go, Lia!” Master Jinho leaped to his feet and cheered, giving me two thumbs-up. “Always the fast learner.”

Joon grumbled as he sat up. His birthmark peeked out of his uniform, and I motioned for him to cover it. It made him self-conscious, and he hated showing it to anyone. Not even me, his best friend.

He quickly adjusted his uniform. “This is just practice. You didn’t have to strike so hard.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” I reached out to help, but he waved my hand away and jumped up.

Master Jinho chuckled. “That’s what the protective gear is for. We must practice hard to be ready.”

We stood shoulder to shoulder and bowed to Master Jinho. He bowed back and said, “Keep practicing together. You’re both more than ready for the exam.”

Red lights flickered on the silver box, and the image of Master Jinho faded away.

After we changed, we sat down on the foam mat and stretched. I reached for my toes and pressed my face against my knees. The backs of my legs burned from the session today.

Joon rubbed his hands together and chanted, “Yakson.” Medicine hands. Ever since I’d known him, which seemed like forever, he’d always had this ability. Lucky him.

Once his hands started to glow an orangish color, he placed them on his shoulder. The color transferred from his hands and enveloped the injured area.

Even though I’d seen him do this a million times, it never got boring. I mean, how cool was it that he could heal himself? So, basically, as long as he didn’t get fatally wounded, he could heal himself just like that. Which was why his complaining that I’d hit him too hard was just ridiculous.

He moved his neck side to side as he rolled his shoulder. “Good as new. I forgive you for pummeling me.”

“I should’ve gone even harder,” I joked back.

“Have you gotten your power yet?”

I shook my head and took in a deep breath. “It’s too late for me.”

“We could keep practicing. Maybe it’ll show up soon. There’s still time.”

Things weren’t looking so good for me. People were either born with magic powers or they weren’t. Simple as that. It wasn’t entirely dependent on genetics, more like luck of the draw. But I had heard that if you were born into a family of magic, the odds of having powers yourself were higher.

I doubted being born to parents with very low doses of magic helped my chances. Appa had an eidetic memory, better known as a photographic memory. A pretty useless skill in a day and age when everything could be looked up on the phone. Umma had the power of—wait for it—flexibility. And she wasn’t even that flexible. Yoga-level flexible, not superhero level. So my gene pool wasn’t all that great.

All I ever wanted was to be part of IMA, fight monsters, and be one of the four protectors of the world. Of course, normal people couldn’t actually see monsters. They concealed themselves well, blending in with humans. Some minded their own business while others, the ones that we were trained to fight—they were the bad ones. End-the-world, steal-your-soul, open-the-gates-to-the-spirit-world type of bad.

I must’ve been so lost in my thoughts that I hadn’t noticed Joon waving his hand in front of my face.

“Why don’t you follow your mom to work and see what being a desk agent is like?”

“Won’t make a difference. I don’t want to work as a no-magic.” Technically, my parents weren’t no-magics because they did have powers. But, and maybe this was worse, they chose to be desk agents. Why would anyone not use the magic they were given? It made absolutely no sense to me.

The no-magics had the worst jobs ever. Data entry, writing reports, and other boring tasks that required zero powers.

He sighed. “I really don’t see what the big deal is. It’s better than nothing, isn’t it?”

“You just don’t get it.” How could he? He didn’t have to think about life outside of IMA.

I stood up and walked to the calendar hanging on my wall. There were exactly five days left until the exam.

Joon rushed out the door and yelled, “Race you to our hideout!” He disappeared down the stairs.

A large tree stood smack in the middle of our yard. When we first moved here, Appa had been excited to discover it. A couple days later, he bought some wooden planks and got to work building me the most perfect tree house. It was my special place.

I climbed up the ladder fastened to the side of the tree. The inside was a lot larger than it looked from the outside and big enough for us to stand up straight. The good thing about having parents in IMA was that they were able to purchase special magic-infused wooden planks. To anyone else walking past our backyard, this looked like the average tree house. But the inside was a different story.

Joon stood in front of the whiteboard, which was getting pretty full of crossed-out words. We had been coming here for months now, trying to figure out my powers. I had to hand it to Joon for the countless hours of research he’d done in hopes of coaxing my power to show up.

“Today it’s”—he pointed to the whiteboard—“intangibility.”

I groaned. We’d tried this a couple months back. Definitely not the most fun skill to test out. Intangibility was the official way of saying the ability to walk through walls.

“What is the point in all this anymore?” I rubbed my knuckles. Last time, I believed with all my heart and then smashed my hand into the table. It did not go through.

“Who knows? Maybe your power decided to show up today.”

Always the annoying optimist.

“Easy for you to say. You aren’t the one getting banged up every time. And…”

He finished what I was just about to say. “And even if I did, I could heal myself.” Joon chuckled and flexed his arms. “Can’t help it. Born with it.”

I sighed. No use arguing with him. “Okay. One last time. And then I’m so done.”

If this was going to be my last hurrah, I was determined to make it a big one. I steadied my breath, just like we’d learned from our IMA tutor.

The most basic rule was to empty my mind and, if I had a power, try to channel it.

Part of me wanted to prove Joon wrong. But the other part of me desperately hoped that I had some magic. That I belonged. Even a sliver would be fine.

Joon tapped the table. “Ready?”

I nodded, and before he could stop me, I closed my eyes and ran straight into the wall.

For a couple seconds, I must’ve lost consciousness, because when I opened my eyes, Joon was peering down at me with super-worried eyes.

“Lia!” He let out a huge sigh of relief before starting his rant. “That was such a dangerous move.” He stormed to the window and jabbed his finger out toward the grass. “What if you’d had that power?”

“But I didn’t.”

“Not yet.”

“Think it’s time you accept it.”

“But this is what we’ve been dreaming about all our lives.”

“Dreams change.”

He looked at me with a hurt expression. “I guess.”

I couldn’t stand it. The way he looked like I’d just shattered his dreams.

“Like all agents do, I have a backup plan. So don’t worry about me.” If I couldn’t be part of IMA because I was a no-magic, then I was going to be best friends with Dior. She was the most popular girl at West Hills Middle School, the normal-people school we attended during the week.

Since IMA agents needed to blend in, academics were very important and so most magic kids attended normal-people schools. But because our identities were a secret, we were under strict orders not to use magic or talk about IMA in front of normal people.

Maybe he was in denial, but things were already different between us. After we finished school at West Hills, there were days when Joon would take magic classes with his IMA tutor at his house, while I’d take random skills classes with mine. We used to do everything together.

“I’m going to be Dior’s new best friend,” I said.

“You know that’s the worst plan ever.”

“Why?”

“Because you don’t belong at West Hills.”

Why should I settle for a boring job at IMA while he got to do all the cool magic stuff? No, I was going be the most popular girl at West Hills. And get a fantastic normal-person job someday.

He rolled his eyes. “Okay, so how exactly are you going to be friends with Dior? Who, by the way, is pure evil. And she doesn’t even know you’re alive.”

I scoffed and opened my desk drawer. Inside was the most coveted bejeweled pink invitation ever for none other than Dior’s birthday bash.

Joon picked it up and studied it carefully. A look of disbelief crossed his face. “Is this the invite?”

I beamed but tried to stop because Joon looked so sad. “Always be prepared. That’s our motto, right?”

He scrunched his face and shook his head. “I can’t believe it. All this time.”

I knew he spent every spare moment exploring ways for me to find my power. But we’d exhausted all possibilities, and I was done getting banged up.

“Why can’t you just be happy for me?”

He was so mad, his whole face turned red. “Because this is our thing.”

“Not anymore. I’m not like you.”

“Yeah, but you can still be a part of IMA.”

“As a no-magic. No thanks.”

“She’s just using you.”

I flinched. His words stung, but they weren’t completely untrue. I got to know Dior because she happened to be in my history class. It started off with me helping her with her homework. But somehow I ended up doing all her homework for her. It was worth it, though, because she invited me to her birthday party. All the girls in her group had a golden bracelet. I had a feeling I’d be getting one too at her party. She was my friend, and soon I’d be able to prove it.

“You’re just jealous because you weren’t invited.”

“Why would I be jealous of a normal-people birthday party?”

What was his problem? I should be the one upset, not him. He was the one who was probably moving away to Korea, while I would be left behind, with no friends at all. Eventually he’d make friends with other people at IMA, maybe even meet another healer. But me? I was the one doomed to live in this boring little town in California, alone forever.

“Forget it. I’m going home.”

“Fine.”

I opened my backpack and slid the invitation inside, right next to my black leather pouch, which I always carried with me wherever I went. This was my secret stash of nifty things that a good agent might need in an emergency. Since I didn’t know any magic, I made my own little collection of everyday items, from paper clips to matches.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide

Lia Park and the Missing Jewel

By Jenna Yoon

About the Book

Lia Park and her best friend Joon spend their afternoons practicing the skills they’ll need to get into the International Magic Agency’s magical school. But Lia isn’t sure she’ll ever be a part of IMA. Even though Joon discovered his magical power ages ago, Lia’s haven’t developed yet. In fact, she’s starting to think they never will. Lia decides it’s time to make some nonmagic friends, whether her parents agree or not. She sneaks out, against her parents’ wishes, to attend the birthday party of the most popular girl at school. In the process, she accidentally breaks a magical protection spell, with disastrous consequences. Lia’s parents are kidnapped, and Lia is catapulted into a world of dark shadows and evil spirits. To rescue Umma and Appa from the malicious spirit Gaya, Lia must follow the clues her parents left from her suburban California home across the world to Korea and into magical realms she’s never even imagined. With the support of the faithful—if sometimes annoying—Joon, Lia must draw on her own hidden talents and find deep courage within herself to rescue her parents and save the world.

Discussion Questions

1. Lia’s adventures begin after she sneaks out to Dior’s birthday party. Why does Lia want to attend the party? What happens while she is there? Does the party turn out how she’d hoped it would?

2. Why does Lia want to be friends with Dior? Is Dior a true friend to her? In what ways are Dior and Joon, Lia’s best friend, different? What makes Joon a true friend to Lia?

3. When Lia returns home after Dior’s party, she encounters sinister black smoke. What is the smoke, and what does it do?

4. Who is Gaya? What powers does she have? What does she want from Lia?

5. Lia blames herself for her parents’ kidnapping. Do you think it’s Lia’s fault? Why or why not?

6. Lia’s family is originally from Korea, and their Korean culture is an important part of their lives. They speak in both Korean and English at home, eat Korean food, and still have family back in Korea. What is your family’s ethnic background? How does it show up in your family life?

7. Lia says, “My lowest moment didn’t feel as bad with Joon around.” (Chapter five) What is Joon like? What about him makes Lia feel better in low moments? What is your best friend like, and how do they help lift you up when you are feeling down?

8. Why do Lia’s parents put a magic blocking spell on her? Do you think they were right to block her magic and keep her heritage a secret from her?

9. Lia often thinks her parents have too many rules. Do you ever feel like this? Why do you think parents make rules for their children?

10. At the start of the book, after forbidding her to go to the party, Lia’s mom prepares her a beautiful meal. Lia observes:​

Umma must’ve felt bad, because she had prepared some of my favorite foods. In the middle of the table was a platter of neatly lined-up yubuchobap, soybean curd stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and veggies. Next to it was a bowl of gungjung tteokbokki. Everyone makes these differently, but I loved Umma’s version using thin oval rice cakes with sliced cabbage, mushrooms, beef, and onions, all sauteed in soy sauce and sesame oil. [Chapter three]

Lia loves her mom’s food. Have you ever tasted any of these Korean foods? What special foods do your parents or other adults in your life cook for you?

11. Why do you think Lia is so glad to have Joon along with her as she searches for her parents and the jewel? If you had to complete a quest like this, who would you want to have along with you, and why?

12. How did Lia’s parents leave behind clues for her to follow? Why do Lia’s parents leave her coded clues instead of telling her where to go and what to do?

13. When Lia arrives at her grandmother’s house, Halmoni reveals that Lia is a Hwarang. What is a Hwarang? What does being a Hwarang mean for Lia?

14. How do things go when Lia casts her first spell? Have you ever had things go badly when you were learning something new? How did you find the strength to keep trying?

15. Lia says “I didn’t know why they insisted on speaking Korean to me when they spoke perfect English. They had said it’s because it’s important and it’s who I am, but I just spoke English back to them.” (Chapter two) Why do you think Lia’s parents insist on speaking Korean to her? Why does she resist? Do your parents do anything to try to pass on your family culture or background to you? How do you feel about it?

16. What is Lia like? What personality traits does she have that will help her on her quest? What are her weaknesses? How does she change over the course of the book?

17. Why do Lia and Joon want to be a part of the International Magic Agency? Would you like to attend a magical school? What would you want to learn there?

18. Lia carries with her a “secret stash of nifty things that a good agent might need in an emergency.” (Chapter one) What does she include in her stash? How does her stash end up helping her? Are you good at being prepared, like Lia? If you were going to carry a secret emergency kit, what would you put in it, and why?

19. In Lia’s world, each magical person develops a single magical talent at some point in their lives. If you could have a magical talent, what would it be?

20. How does Lia eventually find the jewel she needs to save her parents? What does this show you about what she is like?

21. Who is the Dragon King? What powers does he have? Why does the Dragon King allow Lia to get the jewel?

22. The Dragon King tells Lia that the “jewel will test you.” (Chapter nineteen) In what ways does the jewel test Lia? Do you agree with the decision she made to use the jewel, even after the Dragon King’s warning?

23. Several times in the novel, Lia must dig deep to find the courage to do something difficult to save her family. Have you ever had to find the strength to do something, even though you were really scared? What was it, and how did you find that strength?

24. Halmoni doesn’t want Lia to go looking for her parents, but Lia insists on doing it anyway. Why? Do you think she made the right choice, or should she have let the adults handle the situation?

25. In what ways does Lia’s knowledge of her family’s Korean culture help her on her quest to rescue her parents?

26. A lot of this story takes place in Korea. How is the setting important to the story? Do you think this book could have been set somewhere else?

27. Who does Gaya turn out to be? Were you surprised by the book’s ending?

28. In the end, Gaya saves Joon by sacrificing her own life. Do you think her actions redeemed her character?

Extension Activities

1. Every year for Lia’s birthday, her parents plan a treasure hunt for her. Lia’s treasure hunt skills come in handy after Gaya kidnaps her parents, as she follows the clues her parents have left her to find what she needs to stay safe and rescue them. Make your own treasure hunt for a friend or family member. If you’d like, you can try creating three-part clues like Lia’s family uses: the first part of the clue leads you to a place or object; the second part tells you where to look once you’re at that location; and the third part tells you what to do in that location.

2. Create a picture album of the book’s key characters, including Lia, Joon, Gaya, the Dragon King, and anyone else you found vital to the story. You can use pencil, paints, markers, or even make a collage to illustrate what you think each character in the book looks like. Under each character’s picture, write a brief description of what they do in the book and what that tells you about their personalities.

3. Write two newspaper articles about the final scenes of the book—one for the magical newspaper and one for the nonmagical one. What will each newspaper say about what happened? How will the stories be different? If you’d like, you can print out your articles to share with your friends and family.

4. At the end of the book, Lia finds out that both she and Joon have gotten into the International Magic School. Write a short story sequel to Lia Park and the Missing Jewel that describes Lia’s and Joon’s first year at magic school.

5. Near the end of the book, Joon has a surprising encounter with Gaya. Imagine you are Joon, and write a diary entry about this encounter. What happens? How does it make you feel? What do you think it meant for your future?

6. Create a video “book commercial” for this book to encourage other kids to read it. Share what you liked best about the book, and why you think other kids should read it, too. Be sure to include teasers about Lia’s adventures, but don’t spoil anything for future readers!

Chris Clark is a writer and reading teacher who lives with her family in coastal Maine.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Jenna Yoon studied Art History at Wellesley College and received her master’s degree in Korean art history from Ewha Womans University. She’s lived about half her life in both Korea and the United States. When she’s not writing, Jenna loves to travel, find yummy eats, play board games, and take skin care very seriously. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two kids.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (May 3, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534487932
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Raves and Reviews

"Fun and fast-paced, this debut novel will please the Rick Riordan Presents crowd."

– Booklist Online

"Lia Park is an exciting new protagonist in the fantasy adventure scene."

School Library Journal

"An intriguing, fast-paced fantasy adventure."

– Kirkus Reviews, 5/1/22

Awards and Honors

  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title

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