Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)

Book Review: Kpop Confidential by Stephen Lee

And… here we have another kpop/YA book review! At the same time as I received my ARC of Shine by Jessica Jung, I also received a finished copy of Kpop Confidential, so I am adoring the theme of my autumn reading so far.

Anyway- thank you so much to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book!

Kpop Confidential follows a fifteen year-old Korean-American girl named Candace who, on a whim, enters a global competition to become a trainee at S.A.Y Entertainment in Korea, and suddenly finds herself being swept up into the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a celebrity-in-training.

After a begrudging acceptance from her parents, Candace leaves behind her life in the United States for a summer, with the ultimatum that she will either end the summer as a debuted kpop idol or back as a high school student in New Jersey. She is rapidly inducted into a world of no social media, brutal dieting, dating bans and torturous hours of training.

As she faces the struggles of falling in love when dating is strictly prohibited, living in a dorm with the meanest girl in training, and not being able to dance when trying to debut in a dancing idol group, Candace has to commit wholeheartedly to her new trainee lifestyle and forget that there is anything at all outside the walls of her training HQ.

This book has a protagonist who, somewhat unwillingly, finds herself stepping on some toes to get to the top, an entertaining love triangle (with, in my opinion, an obvious favourite…) and some very strong friendships that were incredibly refreshing to read about against the backdrop of all the trainee backstabbing and blackmail.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because of the fifteen year old protagonist, it seemed a little younger than a lot of the YA I’ve read lately, but it was still a cute, easy read with enough drama to keep me turning the pages throughout. Without spoiling anything, I loved the direction that the story ended up going in and found myself satisfied with this book from start to finish. I would definitely recommend to kpop lovers, YA lovers and anyone looking for a whirlwind of a story about dedication, passion, drama and friendship.

Rating: 4/5

ARC Review: Shine by Jessica Jung

I am not ashamed to admit that, from the second I discovered that this book existed (or was about to exist), I didn’t stop thinking about how to get one of the gorgeous proof copies until I finally got one. I don’t talk about kpop on the internet quite as much as I’d like to, but second-generation kpop idols basically own my life when I’m not reading YA. I wanted this to be the best book I’ve ever read and I knew that the minute I started it, I’d have to read the whole thing in one sitting.

So, as you can probably guess, I ended up getting a copy (ahh!!!!) in a giveaway from Electric Monkey (thank you, I love you) and I dropped my entire TBR to read it. And, thankfully, I loved it.

This is the story of Rachel Kim, a Korean-American girl who dropped everything to move to Korea and enter the intense and mysterious world of Kpop idol training. She spends half her childhood following rules, intensively training and juggling an attempt at regular schooling and her commitment to becoming a celebrity.

Shine explores everything about idol training that you don’t get to see on social media: the insane hours of effort, the impossibility of dating bans, the extreme dieting, the falsities and manipulation that go into achieving your dream at the expense of the people you’ve grown up with, and, of course, the pure talent and determination that it takes to become an international superstar.

Rachel is a likeable and inspiring protagonist, but she is absolutely not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve her aspirations as she realises that she is rapidly approaching being ‘too old’ to be a trainee. She is nowhere near as harsh as some of the other trainees (some of whom are downright brutal), but she’s aware of what she needs to do and will obviously sacrifice plenty to achieve her goal.

It’s likely because of her history in the industry and the fact that she went through kpop training herself, but Jessica Jung has written such a realistic and believable story that I forgot multiple times that I was reading a work of fiction. I fully believe that the way Rachel is treated is the way trainees are treated in major Korean entertainment companies, and it was scarily realistic. I felt like I appreciated kpop idols before, but this book has taken my awe of them to an entire new level.

Basically, I recommend that anyone who likes kpop reads this book. It has an entertaining amount of romance, a healthy dose of drama, and a very strong, very committed female protagonist who doesn’t allow herself to be beaten down when circumstances are so clearly against her. It was funny, dramatic and eye-opening, and I’m so glad that it was everything I hoped it was going to be.

Rating: 5/5

Shine publishes on 15th October⭐