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About the Author
- Publication date : September 29, 2020
- Print length : 351 pages
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (September 29, 2020)
- ASIN : B07YXFFDD3
- File size : 2832 KB
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1534482660
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #116,598 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But I'm also a big reader and a writer myself. I didn't have high expectations when I got this book. After all, she's not a writer. I didn't even find the premise that exciting but I told myself to give it a try anyway, since I was such a big fan of hers. However, this book disappointed even my lowest of expectations.
The main character is Rachel, a Korean American girl whose only personality trait is dreaming about Kpop stardom and complaining about how her mom doesn't let her train 24/7 like everyone else and doesn't support her dreams. Like Jessica, Rachel also seems more introverted and uncomfortable in front of cameras. She tells us training as a kpop idol is not glamorous or fun, it's just hard work. There are weekly weigh-ins and coaches yell at you. Rachel mentions training but the book spends more time talking about all the fun things she does, like going to fansigns and shopping or whatever. Half the book is either dedicated to describing the incredibly privileged environments Rachel occupies, such as her school and the all-powerful entertainment company SM - I mean DB entertainment, or the descriptions are about her damn outfits.
The other two characters are Mina, a rude queen bee trainee whose father is rich and very strict on her, and Jason Lee, Rachel's love interest who is the most popular boy idol right now and also a Korean that grew up overseas. He's flirty and fun but it's all a mask that he only takes off around Rachel, apparently. I don't know why they're together. At some point, their conflict is them wanting to be together but not wanting to give up their careers because of the idol dating ban, but honestly I didn't care. I wasn't invested in them at all as a couple.
I don't know why I'm telling you this. If any of this so far makes you want to read the book, don't. If any of this sounds like a Kpop-themed Korean drama, it is. If you want a kpop drama that you enjoy by turning your brain off, get this book. I read the entire book wondering when it was going to be interesting, and if this book was actually ghostwritten by someone else. I wondered when the characters would develop an actual human personality, or was the book never going to deliver. Mina has a strict father and that could have made her an interesting character, but the book just skips over it. I never got the feeling in this book about female friendships or camaraderie. Rachel has her school friends that don't do anything except be her cheerleaders, her trainee friend she stops talking to once she becomes famous, and Mina who at no point is treated as sympathetic or understandable as a person.
Not once does Rachel acknowledge her privilege in being in a family that can afford to move to South Korea for her dreams. Her mom can support her and her father can afford to run his own gym and take law classes to become a lawyer. If you want to see Jessica's life as a rich and famous celebrity and dream about being her, you can just go watch her Youtube channel for free. Like the book, it's equally unrelatable to us normal people. Not once does she acknowledge that her chances of succeeding as an idol after debut is basically 100 percent because she belongs to a rich company, instead of the thousands of tiny companies that exist in South Korea that churn out forgettable idols each year. Those kids waste years of their life training and putting themselves in debt only for nothing, and oftentimes for companies that abuse them and have ties to criminal activity.
I never got the feeling that I knew what this book was trying to do, other than make some money off of little kids that dream glittery, shiny Kpop dreams. We all bought this book because Jessica was part of SNSD and was a very successful idol, but the book never seriously delves into any of those topics. Instead it's there like window dressing for a story with about as much depth as those Kpop fanfics you can find for free online. It's there to make it look like kpop, but that's it. A stage prop that's painted to look like a tree still isn't a tree. Jessica has years of experience to draw from about what working in the Korean entertainment industry is like but the book romanticizes the hell out of it. Go and become a Kpop idol! You can date your favorite male idols! You can rub shoulders with the rich and famous! Being a Kpop idol is "hard" but its hard in the way you can brag about, not hard in the way that it actually is, soul-crushing and dehumanizing.
Ultimately, this is just a very average and boring book, and that's not a crime. What makes me angry about it is that Jessica wrote it. According to SM, she was kicked out of SNSD for skipping out on practices and SNSD responsibilities to work on her fashion brand. Years later, it doesn't seem the fashion brand has gone anywhere, so she's doing everything under the sun, because she has the money. Jessica worked hard to earn her money, but who hasn't? Everyone in Korea works overtime and works themselves to death. I expected her to write a book about what it was actually like to be an idol. What Jessica did instead, was write a lip-gloss covered fantasy about kpop, to sell to the girls who follow her. It's more than this book being fictional. She has portrayed Kpop disingenuously to the point where any fan who has followed Kpop for more than two years can tell you that there's a lot more danger and pain to the entertainment industry. She doesn't show any of that, nor does she show the unbelievably rigged odds she has compared to the thousands of other idols out there that don't get the training and life she has.
What Jessica did take time to show though, was a Korean American girl who doesn't seem to get along with any of the other female trainees. Mina and her cronies hate her and drug her and try to sabotage her at every opportunity, until the book ends with them debuting in a nine member group together called Girls Forever. Jessica has cast a shadow on the rest of SNSD with this book by alluding to a hostile relationship between her and everyone else in SNSD. Although it's a fictional book and you can claim that this is just made up for drama, no one is going to separate Jessica from her time in SNSD. It's the only reason why her book about Kpop gets any more attention compared to other books about Kpop. But her implication that the rest of SNSD are terrible people has instead made her look like a terrible person. I respected Jessica's pursuit of a solo career outside of idoldom, because that doesn't last. But disparaging her former members in such a book looks incredibly petty and mean spirited. If Jessica actually was bullied and treated like this all those years ago, she should have made an official statement and had people investigate. If this isn't true and she just wrote her book like this for drama, it looks cheap. Writing a disappointing book is nothing. But doing this has made me disappointed in her as a person.
I don't know why she wrote this book. I don't know what she's doing. But it seems like in the last few years, with her doing all sorts of random projects, it makes me wonder if she really knows what she's doing either.
Story: Rachel was born in New York but always held close her Korean culture. When she is given a chance to become a K-pop star through a training program in Korea, her entire family uproots and moves to South Korea so she can pursue her dream. Five years later, she's still going through the grueling training in order to be ready for her big debut. But a scheming co-trainee, a hot boy band star, and her own doubts begin to derail her.
The very best aspect of the book is the immersion into South Korea. From the foods, the mannerisms, the slang, and the people, it's a great book to really get a feel of the culture. Perhaps because the author was also raised in North America, she bridges the gap between Western and Korean, giving us a great introduction into life in Seoul and South Korea.
Unfortunately, that's where the superlatives ended for me. The 'glimpse' of behind the scenes of K-Pop is fairly non existent because our heroine is a trainee and not a K-pop star. The machine that grinds out these stars pretty much equaled: double eyelid surgery is a must; don't have a boyfriend ever; practice dancing, interviewing, etc often; and you are there to do what you are told since the talent agency knows best. As well, there will be a whole cadre of trainees and most will never get their big debut. This is fairly standard stuff - just read an interview or book from former boy band members in the USA and you'll get the same thing.
As for the actual K-Pop industry, a lot of the second half of the book (and to me, the main point the author wanted to make) is the issue of gender inequality. The girls are treated harshly by the business AND the public, with the boy bands getting favorable treatment and carte blanche for offenses. In a key scene, a K-Pop idol female and male start dating despite the rules against it. The female's contract is dropped and she is drummed out of the industry. The boy received a 'naughty boy' slap on the wrist. Similarly, at the training camps, the boys are given free reign and constant attendants while the girls are ignored and may not even be fed for an entire day. That was the main issue pressed throughout and even our two main protagonists experience very different treatment as they decide whether or not to date. The main conflict of the book is that the love interest is unaware of how unfair things are and makes decisions that would not affect his career but could end hers.
Another portion of the book is the cattiness of the girls. There's a lot of nastiness and slut shaming. Girls try to sabotage each other constantly and the ugliness gets old very fast. Main villain Mina, whose wealthy tiger father is a tyrant and holds the talent agency hostage with his wealth, is hardly a nuanced character and could have been so much more as written. At least she isn't given a lobotomy (read: cathartic change of heart) at the end from the 'goodness' of our main character. But as an antagonist, I got sick of the junior high antics very fast. She was a waspish one-trick pony of nastiness.
Most problematic for me was that main character Rachel was a dud. She has all these people believing in her talent but all we see is a litany of poor decisions, inability to take direction at the training, and a lot of selfishness. She messes up dances, lets herself be used and manipulated, even has trouble doing her one talent, singing, at times. She can't do interviews and freezes up on stage. I imagine she was meant to be relatable, or nicely flawed, but instead she comes off as incompetent and not really worth all the faith in her. Everything is about Rachel - she's a black hole of attention that everyone else revolves around. Love interest Jason Lee is absolutely clueless and his interest in Rachel is very inexplicable. She's completely rude to him the beginning and distant through most of novel. Perhaps he's so shallow he only cares about looks? There is a LOT of egregious 'tell' but little 'show' to back it up. Add in tired cliches in the romance trope such as getting drunk/drugged and puking on the love interest's feet (which the men always find inexplicably amusing and endearing) and you get the idea that this falls dangerously into Mary Sue territory. It's Jessica Jung creating a fantasy boyfriend through fantasy situations that don't have a lot of imagination or nuance.
There are many side characters but they sort of appear and disappear as needed. Rachel's parents and sisters are cliches of goodness (most sisters want to kill each other at some point in their young life!!) and Rachel's only problem with her parents is that they misunderstand her (despite giving up everything for her). Rachel's good friend Akemi starts off strong then disappears mid book, leaving an unresolved plot thread that feels more like author Jung's apology to a friend when she got her debut rather than a valid character in Shine. But then again, most characters feel like idealistic or contrived amalgamations rather than real people.
I did finish Shine but admit it was very unsatisfying. I do not follow K-Pop but was looking for an interesting book that would give a nice glimpse into the people and culture of modern South Korea. In some regards, I did get to see more about the food and social habits. But the characters and plot were not well done and more like a fan fiction than an actual novel. It's a light and fluffy read, though, but ultimately very unrewarding. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
Top reviews from other countries
We do get all the gory details about the industry: underage wannabe stars getting plastic surgeries, crazy restrictive diets and penalties for anything less than a perfect image, punching stomachs for strengthening the diaphragms and lots of others.
I was expecting all that going into the book, even though I do not agree with it. Ultimately, it’s all these kid’s parents that are to blame, and sometimes it’s their only way to ensure a decent life.
However, the writing in this book was awful. Lots of grammar mistakes, to the point I wasn’t even surprised anymore. The story was not a romance at all, but a guidebook on how to succeed in life by becoming a bitch to everyone around you, including your family. This whole story was a poor rendition of ‘Mean girls’ with all the women hating each other and being jealous of each other’s successes. It also points out on the difference in treatment towards male and female idols. Mainly how the female idols are working hard and still make mistakes, while male idols are lazy, don’t work at all and still manage to perform flawlessly. This double standard, and all these other issues were not addressed in the end, which leads me to believe that the author of this ‘fictional’ story aimed at young adult readers is fine with all this and does not believe this should be changed.
The main character. Rachel, was the most gullible and stupid heroine I came across in a long while. It seemed like after 6 years of being a trainee and working in this industry she knew nothing about it, and everything around her was a shock to her, even though everybody was warning her it took days, sometimes weeks for her to realise what these people meant. Her love interest, Jason, was even more naive, and quite frankly, as childish, lazy and unprofessional as he was, I could not understand his successful career.
Finally, let me just touch upon the writing itself. I already mentioned the mistakes, but the story was simply boring. Pointless confrontations and doing makeovers, changing outfits and eating food... and repeat. The author desperately tried to create situations which in my opinion would not have happened in real life. They were there to further the plot.
Let me give you an example. In one chapter the trainees performing were supposed to take care of their costumes, but in the following chapter all of a sudden there were assistants doing that for them. Obviously, when they did it themselves something very bad happened and it served the plot. So what were these assistants doing on that day? Did they all have a day off?
I had such great hopes for this book, so disappointing.
Although I know this is fiction and did appreciate how she embedded her own struggles within this fictional story. However I was expecting more details and scenarios.
It seemed like this was just another project to tick off for Mrs Jung.
Which is a shame.