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MADE IN KOREA

An engaging, fast-paced romance between two teens longing for acceptance.

A rivalry between two entrepreneurial teens becomes a team effort that enables them to fulfill their aspirations.

Korean American high school senior Valerie Kwon runs a wildly popular K-beauty business at school with the help of her cousin, Charlie Song. But when new student Wes Jung enters the picture, he inadvertently becomes a rival when he brings to school K-pop–branded lip balm; he soon realizes that there’s a market for the branded merchandise he has access to through his advertising executive mom. A wager ensues: Whoever makes the most money during the school year gets both businesses’ earnings. Both Valerie and Wes feel unseen at home. Valerie’s parents don’t take her passion for business seriously, instead constantly negatively comparing her to her older sister, Samantha. Valerie dreams of earning enough to take her beloved grandmother to Paris. Wes, a dedicated jazz saxophonist, plans to use his earnings to attend music school despite his parents’ disapproval of this seemingly impractical career plan. Over the course of the competition, the two fall for one another and also make progress in addressing their innermost dreams with their families. The alternating first-person narration moves skillfully between Valerie and Wes, and peripheral characters are well rounded and realistically portrayed. Details about contemporary Korean American life and culture ring true, adding texture to the story.

An engaging, fast-paced romance between two teens longing for acceptance. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7437-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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