I have some other suggested titles in the review for books that tell this same story, but much better. This one was pretty generic and brought nothing new to the trope.
Every Friday after school, dressed in their new South Korean prep-school uniforms — sweater vests, knee-highs, pleated skirts, and blazers — seventeen-year old Alice Choy and her little sister, Olivia, head to Myeongdong, brave a dank, basement-level stairwell full of graffiti, and slip into a noreabang. Back in San Francisco, when she still had friends and earthly possessions, Alice took regular singing lessons. But since their diplomat mom moved them to Seoul, she pours herself into karaoke, vamping it up in their booth to Lady Gaga while loyal Olivia applauds and howls with laughter. Alice lives for Fridays, but when an older woman stops her on their way out one day, handing Alice a business card with a bow, singing turns serious. Could the chance encounter really be her ticket to elite status at Top10 Entertainment’s Star Academy? With a little sisterly support, backed by one of the world’s top talent agencies, can Alice lead her group on stage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans — and just maybe strike K-pop gold? Not if a certain influential blogger and the anti-fans get their way.
Delicious gossip squares off with genuine heart in a debut about standing out and fitting in, dreaming big and staying true — for avid K-pop fans and those just discovering the worldwide cultural phenomenon.
I came into this fully expecting that it would be very similar to other k-pop based books that have come out in the past few years. I was correct. If it were just similar, that wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, this whole book was… meh.
My biggest issue is that there was nothing particularly new about the story. Let’s be real, this framework is basically the most generic k-pop story that can be written: a girl who knows nothing about k-pop suddenly joining a k-pop group and learning how hard it is, having conflict with her group members, struggling through the training, and of course, refraining from fraternizing with the boys.
That’s all this was. I could have story-mapped it out from the start. The characters themselves were also meh. My favorite one was a friend who has a better sense of herself that the main character. I was 100% unsympathetic to the main character throughout, as she spouted things like “I’m going to do whatever it takes” and in the next scene hides in the bathroom to avoid her group member’s help. Or saying things like “I wish I could know the choreography a little bit before we practice together so I wouldn’t have to learn for the first time in front of them.” Well, I don’t know, ask for that help? Or hang with your members, who did exactly that and practiced early?
She was immature and selfish, which is maybe expected at the age, but daaaamn there wasn’t much to redeem by way of character. The rest of the characters aren’t worth mentioning because they were very 2D and just there to fill a role.
There was no real conflict. Even the “hard moments” were tepid. Her abysmal dancing skills? One bad session and it was never mentioned again as something she worked on until we get a throwaway line right before the big event of “she could get through the dance now.” Oh, ok, so the one thing that was touted as a career-ending issue is actually just fine now with no other effort.
Wow, y’all, I gotta be honest. As I’m writing this and really reflecting on it, I’m realizing how much it actually wasn’t very interesting. I read it quickly because there wasn’t much to take in. So to back up my original point that others have done this better, check out K-Pop Idol Diaries or K-pop Confidential instead. Or for something k-pop adjacent but not featuring an idol trainee, check out Hart & Seoul!