book reviews

Shine by Jessica Jung

Shine by Jessica Jung

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: September 29th, 2020

A Korean American teen is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Girls Generation.

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.


I received this e-ARC from the publisher through netgalley but this does not affect my review which is unbiased and honest.

I’m just going to start off my saying that I’m only a recent KPOP fan, but one of my close friends has talked to me at length about KPOP and especially about Girls’ Generation, so when I heard about this book, I was definitely intrigued, especially because there’s always been speculation about her story.

I definitely went in thinking that this was just going to be a fun drama filled, kind of cute romance, but I was surprised when it went so much deeper than that. This book not only had the drama, but it discussed the sexism in the KPOP industry and brought up some really interesting discussions about the world of fame and fortune.

It started off kind of cliche and I was absolutely okay with that because that’s just kind of what I felt like reading at the moment… and then it took a drastic turn. I was so surprised by how quickly I was sucked into the story.

It was so interesting to read about this young girl who would just do anything to be a KPOP star. Even if she had to have an extreme diet and have to go through so much competition with these other girls and have to deal with all these insane rules. Reading about the inner workings of the “training” these girls have to go through in order to even be considered as a potential star blew my mind.

I especially loved the discussions about sexism in the industry along with the talk Rachel and Jason had about their dual identities. Being Korean and American (or Canadian in Jason’s case) and how they didn’t feel completely accepted in either of those boxes. Itw as so relatable to read something like that.

I definitely found myself wondering how much of the possibly obvious references to Girls Generation and Jessica’s own life were the truth, especially because there were quite a few references to the girl group “Girls Forever” and the main singer leaving the group in the book. It was definitely something to think about.

I went in thinking this would just be a romance, but I’m so glad that this wasn’t. This was so much more and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about the KPOP world.

Trigger warnings include, sexism and body shaming.

If you like kind of embarrassing meet cutes, studio ghibli references, a story featuring real life KPOP references, a discussion of identity and sexism in the world of fame, and a whole lot of competition, heartbreak and drama, this is definitely something you should check out!

2 thoughts on “Shine by Jessica Jung”

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