For a look into the unbelievable world of Korean idols, for a young romance growing despite their individual sorrows, for strong and healthy male relationships, for a little bit of fangirling (or fanboying? is it still fangirling regardless of gender?)
Emery Jung is living his dream. Known by his stage name M, he is loved by millions of fans around the world as a member of the rising K-pop group NEON, but all fame comes with a cost, especially when one slip up can have viral consequences. Alana Kim is trying to forget. After a tragic loss sends her spiraling, she escapes to her family in Korea, abandoning her love of music along the way. However, her plans are derailed when she literally runs into M, the famous K-pop idol. When their paths collide, Emery and Alana must work together to prevent a scandal from ruining NEON’s success, sparking a journey of friendship, love, and healing. Unfortunately, fame and love aren’t easily compatible, especially in the world of K-pop.
Jumping into the action right away, with Emery and Alana meeting for the second time threw me for an interesting loop. I was immediately excited to understand their history, and their behaviour towards each other. I was taken with their story from the start – and that was before the k-pop elements really kicked in!
Both characters are struggling with their own demons, primarily around family and guilt. I appreciated these elements, so that it wasn’t just two young kids with a crush on each other. Their interactions were richer for it, and the story was elevated from good enough to great.
As much as I love Korean entertainment and culture, I was a little worried that those elements would be overwhelming and ultimately turn me off. I’m glad I took the risk though, because it was well tempered and explained enough so anyone not familiar won’t feel left on the outside of understanding. There were cliches embraced from many Korean dramas (getting drunk and saying things you wouldn’t otherwise, a dramatic accident, getting sick and saving the other…) but they were done fairly naturally, and were a lot more believable than they usually are in K-dramas. Sometimes they were also turned on their heads quite hilariously to acknowledge how ridiculous some of those cliches are, in a very cheeky manner.
Strong positive male relationships are so woefully absent from American and European stories, because they are so woefully absent from those cultures. In here, we see Emery with a strong support system in his friends and band-mates. They’re unafraid to let their emotions show, to hug each other, and just generally be there for each other in ways that I am with my close friends.
In the end, there were tears of that bittersweet pain/joy combo. And for me, any book making me cry is usually going to get a strong rating. …Even if tears come more easily with my soft heart.
Thank you to the authors for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!