22 June 2021

K Book Review: Shine (2020)

I rarely buy physical books since most have electronic versions that are easily accessible. This is especially true for non-fiction stuff. But there's something about fiction books that make me want to read them in their physical form. Maybe I feel more involved in the story when I have an actual book to hold on to? :)

I have not purchased a paperback novel in the longest time. And what made me finally buy one again was a tweet I saw about how former SNSD member Jessica Jung seems to be like a jack of all trades (and on her way to mastering each of these trades too!). I became curious when I read that Jessica is the sister of Krystal Jung (Prison Playbook) and that she had a novel. And I knew I had to read it when I saw the book's description - Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl. :)

Plot



Shine is about the story of Rachel Kim, an 18-year old Korean American K-Pop trainee of DB Entertainment. The book unmasks the glamor we often associate with K-Pop as it shows us the difficulties trainees have to go through. Rachel's story mostly revolves around her training, her younger sister Leah Kim, her number one rival and co-trainee Mina Choo, and her love interest, K-Pop singer Jason Lee. Shine takes us through Rachel's journey to that highly-coveted debut. 

Judgment

Jessica Jung said she did not intend this book to be an autobiography but she also admitted that a number of the characters are based on real people. So reading this book felt very much like reading K-Pop gossip. It brought me back to my youth when I used to read young adult novels. It just feels more specific this time because it deals with another thing that I love - K-Pop! 

But more than the gossip, I loved the book because it humanized the struggles of K-Pop trainees/artists  - the extremely difficult training, the tight and tough competition, which can involve sabotaging each other's chances and pulling people down to overtake them, the huge pressure to debut, how you should never let your guard down because everyone seems to be out to get you, how management exploits and manipulates the talents and treat them like commodities, etc. Another important lesson I learned from the book was how these trainees really need guidance from their parents or an adult they can trust who can support them and look out for their best interests. Rachel was lucky she had her mom as her number one advocate. 

Most K-Pop followers would probably have an inkling that the things I listed above are happening behind the scenes. But to actually hear them from an insider was still quite surprising. 

Probably the most revealing thing in the book was how gender inequality is still prevalent in the K-Pop industry. Guys get away with a lot of things while girls are held to much higher standards. This book might not change things drastically with regard to this aspect but I hope it could at least serve as an eye opener that would slowly make things better for our K-Pop girls. This is very important considering how young these trainees start. 

Over all, I enjoyed reading the book because it had a compelling and interesting story. I believe there will be a sequel and I look forward to reading more about Rachel's debut, Leah's training, and Rachel's love story with Jason, among others. 

Noona says...4.5. 

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