Sunday, September 13, 2020
Book Review: "K-Pop Confidential" by Stephan Lee
Confession time: I know nothing about K-Pop. I don’t know BTS from Y2K or BLACKPINK from blackjack, but I do love reading about the music scene and stories of people going after their dreams of stardom, so this book really appealed to me.
Candace Park is a dutiful daughter. She does what’s expected: studies hard, gets good grades, helps out at her parents’ convenience store, she even plays the viola (badly) in her school's orchestra because her mother says it will make her stand out and be more likely to get scholarships for college.
But what Candace wants is to sing. She thinks she’s good at it, her best friends think so too, but her mother doesn’t take her desire seriously, and thinks singing is something you do for fun; it's not a "real" ability. So one day, on a whim, thanks to the coaxing of her best friends, she goes to audition for the entertainment company responsible for all of the major K-Pop groups. They’re looking for singers for their first-ever girl group and girls from all over are hoping for their chance.
Much to her surprise, the company wants her. She will become a trainee, one of a large group from which the members will be picked. They want her to come to Seoul and train with all of the others for several months. After much convincing, her parents will let it happen as long as she’s ready to go back to school when the summer ends if she’s not picked.
She’s not prepared for how immensely hard it all is. She’s up against girls who have been preparing for this their entire lives. Her looks, her weight, her skills, her personality—it’s all under intense scrutiny. And no matter how hard she works, she might not even get picked, and even if she is picked, her group may never even debut if plans change. There's another American girl in the mix, so she wonders if she even has a chance.
As she gets closer and closer to achieving her dreams, she starts to wonder if stardom is worth risking her friendships, changing her life and her family’s, not to mention the way the company treats its stars as well as obsession of the fans, who want their stars to be perfect, untouchable, only available to them.
I enjoyed this so much. It’s fun and soapy and I could picture all of it in my mind’s eye, so it would make a fun movie.
Don’t be put off because you don’t follow K-Pop—it’s a totally enjoyable book nevertheless, and there's even a glossary at the end!