Frankly in Love by David Yoon is a cute coming-of-age story with more depths than first anticipated. I love when there are several layers in a story that are woven together in the end and when the author does not leave you with any easy answers. Please note that his review contains spoilers, so don’t continue reading if you haven’t yet read the book!
In short, this is about Frank and how his dreams and wishes do not meet his Korean parents’ expectations. And their racism. Sometimes it was so hard to read all the things Frank’s parents said and how they shut their daughter out for falling in love with a black man, that I wanted to toss the book into the wall. But luckily Frank was so loveable and I rooted so much for him that I had to continue reading and see how he would stand up to his parents and fight for his right to love whomever he want.
When Frank falls in love with white girl Brit (a big no no), he comes up with a fake-dating scheme with a Korean girl his parents would approve for him to be with. The fake-dating scheme was really cute, but Frank’s feelings for Brit never seemed that deep. Spoiler: (Which they clearly weren’t when Frank ends up falling for Joy instead… Even though I loved Frank and his dorkiness, I liked him a little less for leaving Brit like that. It somehow made most of the story in the book seem a bit unnecessary. Like it lacked purpose. Why have us read 400 pages of Frank’s love struggle, when he just tosses it all away for Joy at the end? Already from the start, I thought that Frank and Joy were a much better match.)
But no matter that I didn’t quite agree with some of his decisions, Frank is one of my favorite main characters. I especially loved his friendship with Q and the dorky way the talked and how they always supported each other. I also loved learning more about Korean culture and the complexity with family relationships and racism within minority groups. This book was such an eye-opener to the problems that second generation Korean might have to deal with.
All in all, Frankly in Love was a cute and funny, really fast-paced book with a wonderful humor, an adorkable male protagonist and a fresh new take on life growing up as a second-generation Korean teenager in the US.
Find out more about the book and the author here: David Yoon
I struggled so much with this book. About halfways I almost gave it up since I just couldn’t get to like the main character. At all. But I’m glad I kept on reading, as the book got better in the end.
Mia is the middle sister of three, where older sister Grace is being absolutely flawless (straight As, beautiful, kind and with the perfect boyfriend) and younger sister Audrey is a future Olympic swimming champion (and such a sweetheart). Mia, on the contrary, is wild, daring, shallow and selfish, failing at school and drinking and partying too much.
In a way, it was very refreshing with a completely flawed main character, but the down-side was that it took me almost to the very end until I could even stand her… There were so many times I wanted to shake her and tell her to get her s**t together and stop being so selfish and reckless. I can understand why she would feel ignored or judged, but for me it was no excuse for her behavior. Especially the way she treated her friends, never caring about their feelings. It’s okay to make mistakes and stupid decisions, that’s part of growing up, but the problem in this book was that Mia didn’t seem to learn anything from her mistakes. She just blamed anyone else for them.
What I did like about this book already from the start though was the family dynamics and Mia’s sisters and parents. They were all so sweet and kind and loveable. Which made me worry that Mia would manage to destroy the family ties, especially to do something really mean and stupid that would ruin her sister’s relationship with Sam. So it was an anxious read… But after about chapter 34 or so, the story got so much better and I’m happy to say that Mia did step up and take responsibility for her actions eventually.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Lisa Williamson
I first saw Odd One Out by Nic Stone in a post on Instagram by the Swedish publisher Lavender Lit, and was immediately intrigued. Odd One Out is, despite the title (Triangle in Swedish), not about a typical YA love triangle by any means. It’s a unique take on the triangle trop, it’s heartwarming (and heartbreaking) and so real, awkward, funny and messy, just like life as a teenager questioning yourself and your sexuality is.
The book follows the three teenagers Courtney, Jupiter and Rae, and is divided into three sections, one for each different character. Courtney is a straight black boy in love with his best friend, even though he knows she will never feel the same way because she’s a lesbian. Rae is a biracial Irish/Korean new girl at school, a people-please and apparently, not as straight as she thought. Jupiter is a biracial black girl who has two dads and a proud lesbian, as well as Courtney’s best friend and completely obliviate to his feelings.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar, with these three blocks instead of alternating POVs, but I liked it. Especially Courtney’s parts, he was definitely my favorite character and voice in the book, I really got him. More than I did the girls. I think that having two questioning queer people in one book might have been a bit too much, in the end it all got a little too messy. Reading this book was such a rollercoaster of rooting for the characters one second, then really disagreeing with their choices the next. But I feel like that was kind of the point and that the messiness was what made this book so unique and made it feel real. Life if messy and as a teenager you should be allowed to be messy and make bad decisions in order to figure out who you are and where and how you fit into the world. I really appreciated the talk about labels that Nic Stone added to the story in the end. It’s an important discussion to have and to realise that labels can change and it can be scary to change them and question who you are.
All in all, this is a book with a new and important angle. It’s a book that shows how complicated it is to navigate personhood, to question your sexuality while falling in love, to be biracial and to deal with homophobia, to grieve a family member and deal with past traumas. Basically, it doesn’t dodge any difficult or awkward topic that you might find yourself having to deal with as a teen, and it tells the story in a wonderful, heartwarming and authentic way.
So, even though I didn’t agree with many of the choices made by the characters, I really enjoyed it. It’s an unforgettable book that I feel could be incredibly important to so many teenagers, that would make them feel seen and validated, and would help others to be more emphatic and understanding to the process of questioning your identity.
Find out more the book and the author here: Nic Stone