shine arc review!! // kpop and feels and a new favorite contemporary

Hi friends! If you know me, then you know two things: one, I am NOT a contemporary person. It has to be a good contemporary for me to even consider giving it four stars. And two: I love Kpop. Like, a lot. So, Shine was going to be totally hit-or-miss for me, and well…it might go on my favorites of the year list.

A huge thank you to the publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE

Shine is amazing. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this, because again: usually, contemporaries don’t get me. But this was such a clever combination of excellently executed elements, I couldn’t help but be in love.

Every character is complex. At first, I thought “oh no, there’s going to be some Mean Girls drama and I HAVE TO DEAL WITH A WANNABE REGINA GEORGE”. However, I quickly realized that it was I who was the fool, not the book*. Rachel, our main character, isn’t perfect. Jason, our love interest, isn’t perfect. Mina, our “mean girl”, isn’t perfect. And this makes every single one of the characters realistic. This didn’t feel like a overly saturated, dramatic novel. It felt so very candid.

*clearly, i’ve been reading too much shakespeare because what the heck…?

Okay, but also??? I LOVED the Kpop aspects??? And all the Korean culture??? Jung truly made the Kpop world come to life, showcasing its joys and struggles, the dreams and hopes and suffering of the trainees. She somehow managed to capture the sparkle of Kpop that everyone loves, while also contrasting that with the dark web of gossip, secrets, and cutthroat competition that exists in Kpop. Just as much as I found myself invested in Rachel’s story, I was also totally invested in this world.

As if being entertaining wasn’t enough, I was genuinely surprised by many of the important issues brought up. Rachel and her fellow females in the Kpop world are not treated the same way as the males, who often don’t even realize their privilege.

I also absolutely adored a particular discussion between Jason and Rachel, where they’re bonding over not fitting in. Rachel is Korean-American, and Jason is Korean-Canadian. Their struggles of being either biracial or simply not being seen as “fully one race” were so real and honest. I could relate to so much at times.

ALSO THE ROMANCE. It wasn’t too much, which I appreciated??? It never took away from Rachel’s character but added another layer. It was woven into this book perfectly. It was sweet and romantic and thoughtful at times, but also heartbreakingly earnest at others.

This is more than just a “Kpop novel”. This is a story of a girl trying to chase her dreams, and the corruptness around her. This is about finding yourself, about pushing through the hardest parts of your life, about shining no matter what or who tries to dim you. This is truly one of my favorite books of the year! You can add this to Goodreads here or add to Amazon here. Tell me:

Is this on your TBR?

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