Frankly In Love by David Yoon
Published: September 10 2019
Format: E-book/Hardback library copy
Tags: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Korean Culture, Bittersweet, High School, Nerd Life, Diverse
| Synopsis From Publisher |
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
| Book Review |
– Content –
This book really surprised me with how deep it gets, particularly about race and being a second generation immigrant. Frank Li spends a lot of the book contemplating what it means to be American, when he’ll always be Korean hyphen American, where Korean comes first. He also thinks a lot about the struggles with his own parents’ racism against other races – namely that they make fun of Mexicans or Chinese and no matter how he tries to explain that that’s not right, they just say they’re joking. Additionally, they would not tolerate him dating outside the Korean community and have in fact shunned his sister after she marries her African-American boyfriend.
This then becomes a problem when Frank falls for and starts secretly dating a white girl at his school. Lot’s of crazy hi-jinks ensue as he tries to hide his white girlfriend from his parents. The fake-dating with another Korean girl from his parents’ friend group leads to a lot of humorous scenes, which helps to lighten the mood because the book does get a bit heavy in parts.
I think what I enjoyed most about the content of this book is that Yoon encapsulates senior year of high school really well, while at the same time spending moments of deep reflection about such heavy topics like race, immigrants, and what it is to not belong whole to one group or another. I think teens, especially, will really gravitate to this book because of these discussions and will probably feel really seen.
– Literary Value-
I think Yoon has a really unique writing voice. Frank’s narration is really smart and witty and there’s a capturing of nerd culture that I really loved to see while reading this book. I especially loved the many side-characters in this book, who all felt really different and well rounded. It felt refreshing to read.
The plot of this book is very up and down, but overall, I think it makes sense and mirrors real life pretty well. Yoon breaks the book up into sections that deal with the different parts of his senior year, so we get the story in a variety of seasons, which is nice. The book flows fairly well and the seasons match up pretty well with Frank’s personal relationships.
The think I like most about this book is the humor. I think Yoon has a good sense of the humor in a teen’s inner monologue and Frank sounds authentic and genuinely funny, which is why many characters in the book are drawn to him. I enjoy books that match my own personal humor, so it was nice reading this book because it made me laugh.
– Entertainment Factor –
Like I mentioned above, there’s a lot of humor in this book, which made it very enjoyable for me to read! I have mixed feelings, though, about the book as a whole in terms of enjoyment. I didn’t care as much for the beginning half of the book as I did the second half. I think it’s mostly down to the fact that this book took a little time to hit its stride and I had a hard time getting into it. But, once I was further in, something clicked and I felt myself turning the pages and enjoying the ride.
While I don’t mind slow-build stories all the time, I think in the YA genre, I prefer to be swooped up in the story right away. With this book, I think Frank took some getting used to, in terms of his voice and way of looking at the world. But once you’ve spent some time getting to know him more, as the book progresses, it gets easier and the read is much more enjoyable.
– Cover Art –
I think I like this cover…it’s hard to say, because I really, really don’t like that shade of yellow with green…I don’t know if I’d like it better if it were a different color paired with the green, but…I just don’t like it in this case.
Otherwise, I think, stylistically, it’s a pretty neat cover. I like the 3D aspect of the letters and it looks really sharp and stylized.
But I’m going to get on a soapbox for a minute, though. I recently had a conversation about diversity representation in YA book covers and…it’s not great. There isn’t much representation of diverse faces on book covers, even if the book itself is diverse. In this case, there’s an opportunity here to have some Asian representation on the cover, since Frank is Korean. Now, I personally don’t like seeing faces on covers because I don’t like being told what I should picture the characters as. However, I understand that representation matters and that there should be more push to make that representation visible.
Also, this cover really doesn’t have anything to do with what happens in the book. There is nothing about this cover that hints at or links to a specific instance or elements of the book, which is always a shame. Even if you don’t slap a person on the cover, you could at least add some inanimate objects or images of places that have something to do with the story. Overall, I think there was a missed opportunity here.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me, but overall, I can say that I enjoyed reading it and I think it’s a good work of fiction. There are a lot of things going for it – the interesting characters, the humor, the diversity, and the discussion of deep topics like racism, being an immigrant, and belonging.
At various times, Frank was a little hard to connect with, but I think, overall, he’s a good MC and I like his humor. He feels like a real person, which is something you want in a realistic fiction piece. The side characters are also pretty great, and they feel like a complete cast. If I could change one thing, I would dial down how much of the book is Frank’s inner thoughts and up the amount of time we spend with Frank’s friends. I think this would definitely help me connect more with the story.
Would I recommend this book?
Yes, for sure! I think this book adds a lot to the diversity of contemporary realistic fiction in the YA genre. Yoon brings some more than your traditional romance to the table, adding layers of complexity by talking about race, tradition, and fitting into a country that is such a melting pot. I would recommend this to teens, but also to anyone looking for a sweet, diverse read that has a little more going on than just a high school love story.