Book Review: Shine by Jessica Jung Has No Sparkle

At this point, I don’t need to explain to anyone what Kpop is. Korean pop has taken the world by storm. It started with second generation groups like TVXQ and then was taken to whole new heights by groups like Black Pink and BTS. In some ways, Shine by Jessica Jung is perfectly timed. A kpop YA novel that focuses on the industry and is written by a veteran performer feels like it should be a smash hit.

Add into that that Jung’s departure from Girls Generation was a big scandal back in the day and this book feels like it should be brimming with juicy, tell-all secrets. I was expecting the book to be a lot trashier than it was and Jung surprised me with her restraint. Although the other girls in the book (aside from her family members) are terrible human beings, there’s some attempts at humanizing the other trainees.

Jump into the glittering world of kpop to see the sweat and blood beneath it. Immerse yourself in the world that Jung is crafting for us and see for yourself if being an idol is all it’s cracked up to be.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an advanced copy of this book. Even if I didn’t enjoy the book, I appreciate the chance to read it.


by Jessica Jung
[September 29, 2020]
The Pitch: Kpop YA wish fulfillment with a fish out of water story starring a Korean-American who wants to make it big in the industy. Written by Jessica Jung who was formerly one of the leads of the legendary kpop group Girls Generation and with insider knowledge of the Kpop industry.

Follow along in the shoes of Rachel Kim as she struggles with the grueling training schedules, intense bullying attempts, and the chance for blossoming romance.

4.41 out of 5 on Goodreads

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TrulyBooked’s Review

I have so many things to say about Shine by Jessica Jung that I’m probably going to have to do a separate spoiler review on it. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of this book. Honestly, I think that the series shows promise and the writing was better than I expected, but let’s get a few things out of the way.

Shine exists in a place where it straddles the line between autobiography and fiction. Since there are aspects of this book that are lifted straight from Jung’s life, it can be hard to see where that line is.

How Shine by Jessica Jung Interacts With the Real World:

First of all, I’m not here to argue anything about Jessica Jung. I don’t have any opinion on her either way and the woman’s an icon. There is no disputing that fact. She’s been incredibly clever about herself and her business. So, even though she’s made missteps, you can tell that she’s driven. Anyone who read Shine and decided to hate Jessica for it is just… sad, really.

Shine by Jessica Jung Has No Sparkle 1
Shine by Jessica Jung Has No Sparkle 1

Second of all, anyone who’s looking for the equivalent of a youtube expose video on Girl’s Generation is going to leave disappointed. While there are moments that feel very catty and probably close to Jessica Jung’s view of how things went, there doesn’t seem to be a direct one to one comparison for everything that happens. There are parts that feel very autobiographical, but that’s not the whole of the book.

Shine focuses on one main antagonist rather than the full group since this is before SNSD would have debuted. The main character here is still a trainee and so is her rival.

How Shine by Jessica Jung Works as a Novel Plot:

Thirdly, there as aspects of wish fulfillment here, but this is a story about Jessica/Rachel first and her romance second. The driving force here is to succeed in a brutally tough industry.

And fourth, if you daydream about becoming a kpop star then you’d probably like this book. This book wasn’t made for me. I know that. I’m not someone who would ever want to be in the industry and I’m not the target audience. I think that Jung does an admirable job of trying to lift up young women through her main character. The only problem? Her other characters end up tearing young women down.

It has the Consensual Hex problem of doing the exact opposite of what it means to. Except with Shine, Jung doesn’t feel all that malicious. Is the novel catty sometimes? Definitely. But it’s at least trying to show some humanity on both sides.

If you’re even vaguely curious, give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised, so maybe you will be too.

Who Should Read Shine by Jessica Jung?

In conclusion, people who love both Kpop and YA romance novels will really get into this book.

It does give us an inside look at the industry even if it doesn’t go far enough into it. The Kpop industry is rife with scandals and abuses of power. The way that Shine ignored these to focus on aggression between trainees is a problem for me.

Maybe the next book will have more things to say about the industry as a whole. Honestly, I’m curious to see where the story goes even if I couldn’t connect to the characters.

One thing you definitely need to keep in mind. If you are sensitive to scenes about vomit, there are two parts of this book you need to skip. Yeah, that’s right. There are two vomit scenes and each of them involve the love interest.

1.5 out of 5 from TrulyBooked

Amazon | Indigo | BooksAMillion

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Book Review: Shine by Jessica Jung Has No Sparkle

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