Book Review: Made in Korea by Sarah Suk
Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
What a fun read! I pretty much never get sick of the premise “they’re rivals/enemies, but SURPRISE, now they like-like each other!” The things that make this particular version of that story stand out are the focus on K-pop and K-beauty, the mostly Korean American cast, and Suk’s truly excellent talent for writing quick, snappy dialogue. I burned through this great book and then immediately went out and bought some Hi-Chews. (You’ll see.)
The fact that the high school in this book allows students to run their own small businesses made for a great platform to create a rivalry. Valerie is very assertive and completely focused on making her business succeed. Not only is she great at marketing and selling, but she’s driven by the wish to save enough money to take her beloved grandma on a trip to Paris. Wes, the new kid, is pretty quiet and really just focused on his music and trying to figure out to covertly apply to music school. His business really starts up by accident, but he sees it as a way to get the money he needs for application fees etc. He kind of gets swept up in the rivalry as accidentally as he starts his business—things get out of control, ideas grow beyond what he meant—but the one thing that’s not accidental is falling for Valerie.
Only guess what? Drama ensues. There’s spying and subterfuge and a big bet, and gossip, and DRAMA. There’s also kissing and mistakes and hurt feelings. Things fall apart in interesting ways and get fixed in satisfying and realistic ways. While this is a great look at identity, culture, family, expectations, and entrepreneurship, it’s also a wholly satisfying and really cute romance with fully realized characters who have so much going on in their lives beyond just (maybe reluctantly) realizing they like each other. Charming and well-written.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 05/18/2021
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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