Colorful illustrations highlight episodic narratives: This is a story obscured by its own diffused telling.


Teen girls chart their paths toward self-discovery and teamwork.

In a palm-fringed seaside city, an intimate friendship between Ren and Luna blossoms as quickly as it withers when Luna moves away and becomes incommunicado. Luna’s return two years later sparks the central conflict that plays out as Ren navigates challenging relationships at home, in high school, and as captain of their brand-new five-person girls basketball team. Confronting blatant misogyny, the team their new biology teacher scrapes together feels as ambitious an undertaking as the narrative scope of this character-driven story. Stark glimpses of domestic discord, abusive adult behavior, smoking, drinking, self-harm, and body-shaming reveal the team members’ variously fraught personal circumstances and suggest compelling backstories that unfortunately remain underdeveloped. Stylistically and structurally similar to a comic book, this graphic novel’s visual vibrancy compensates for its scattered storytelling. From pastels signaling dawn’s promise to deep indigos of despair and energetic tones showing on-court action, the panels and palette assert attitude and grit. The pages’ shifting layout maintains a dynamic pace while the artwork conveys the intense—often conflicting—emotions inherent to adolescence and young adulthood. Leong concludes with a tribute to the inner light of her characters and to the power of friendship. The cast is ethnically diverse; Ren is black, and Luna has Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Colorful illustrations highlight episodic narratives: This is a story obscured by its own diffused telling. (character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-14668-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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An honest, fresh, and thoughtful summer romance.


Childhood friends reconnect only to discover a new type of love.

Korean Americans Hannah Cho and Jacob Kim were the best of friends growing up. That is, until Jacob’s father died and he and his mom moved to South Korea. Now 18, Jacob is starring in a hot K-drama and feeling the pressures of fame. After Jacob is injured while trying to help a distressed fan, his mother decides they’ll escape to San Diego for the summer and stay with their old friends the Chos. Hannah, fresh from a breakup, is preoccupied with getting back together with her White ex-boyfriend, Nate, who is even more into K-pop and K-drama than she is. When Jacob and Hannah are thrown back together, years’ worth of unspoken hurt feelings—and affection—resurface. Despite their initial walls, Hannah and Jacob quickly realize how much they have missed their friendship. The two fall back into their friendly rhythm, and it turns into something more. The narrative alternates between Hannah’s and Jacob’s first-person perspectives, with third-person interludes following the pair’s mothers. The love story flows easily as Lee incorporates the trappings and obligations of life as a K-drama celebrity, such as fake dating one’s co-star, as well as humorous and occasionally frustrating incidents that come with the territory and affect the couple’s budding relationship. The novel also meaningfully examines issues around Korean American identity, code-switching, objectification of Asian culture and people, family dynamics, and finding inner strength.

An honest, fresh, and thoughtful summer romance. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-335-91578-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.


Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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