Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Candace Park, 15, is a top student at New Jersey's Fort Lee Magnet, a secret K-pop fan, and a terrible viola player who desperately wants to sing, like her older brother Tommy. But their Korean-born parents, who met at a prestigious music school in Korea but now run a convenience store, "won't budge." Encouraged by best friends Imani and Ethan, Candace secretly auditions for a new girl group being created by the entertainment company behind an internationally popular K-pop boy band. Getting in is only the start of Candace's challenges, however: she must persuade her protective parents to let her visit Seoul for intensive training, live in a dormitory with 49 other competitive young women, and navigate culture shock, training, and the competition. Debut author Lee captures the fun of K-pop music while exploring a factory where young women are scrutinized and subject to extreme dietary and physical expectations. This wish-fulfillment story twines "Cinderella" moments with intersectional issues--class, racism, sexism--but it's Candace's sense of self-worth that will get readers to cheer. 12--up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, the Book Group. (Sept.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Who doesn't want to be a K-pop idol? Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul's Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan--but secretly, because she fears it's a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee's fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry's actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay. A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.