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⭐

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