“Shine”, written by Jessica Jung, tells the rise of a young girl, Rachel, of Korean origin but born in the United States, in the world of K-Pop. This is not a trivial matter for the author who has been working in this industry for years. By the way, Jessica was the Main Vocal of the popular group Girls’ Generation, from 2007 to 2014. This is the first novel that she offers us, having recently published a second volume, entitled “Bright”. So it’s time to revisit “Shine”, an instant New York Times bestseller!

Synopsis: “What would you give for a chance to live your dreams? For seventeen-year-old Korean-American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment – one of the biggest K-Pop labels from Seoul, known for producing some of the most popular stars in the world. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy, right? Not so much. Like the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying pretty girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she starts to develop feelings for the K-Pop star and boy from DB gold, Jason Lee. Not only is he charming, sexy and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how much she wants her star to rise.”

“Shine” (2020)

Kpopmap's Best K-Lit: Here's Why Jessica Jung's First Novel "Shine" It will be your next favorite book

Simon & Schuster

book review

Author: Jessica Jung

Editor: Simon & Schuster Books

Collection: Young Readers

Length: 368 pages

ISBN: 9781534462526

The story follows Rachel, whose journey closely resonates with Jessica’s. She has been a trainee at the prestigious agency DB Entertainment for six years, and her only dream is to debut as a K-Pop singer. Throughout the twenty-seven chapters that punctuate the novel, we discover all the obstacles between her and her goal. First, Mina’s character. Like her, Mina wants to enter the music world and does everything to oppose Rachel’s projects. In the midst of this race for fame, a boy stands out Jason, star of the agency, member of a famous boy band. He soon became young Rachel’s love interest.

We are very quickly immersed in Rachel’s world with this novel, which exposes the backstories of this world but still feels so sequined. K-Pop stars need to be “lovable, eloquent and perfect” at all times, in front of and behind the camera. There is no room for scandals, nor for the slightest sign of weakness, at the risk of being expelled from the trainee program that was supposed to make you a star. The animosity between the interns is therefore strong; between drugs, lies and violence, everything is allowed to climb the ladder of fame. Mina embodies this almost unlikable character, blinded by her hatred of Rachel, who leads a different lifestyle than the others. In fact, she didn’t have to suspend her studies and continues to live with her parents, favored by the head of the agency.

Kpopmap's Best K-Lit: Here's Why Jessica Jung's First Novel "Shine" It will be your next favorite book

Jessica Jung Instagram

Rachel suffers from her difference, from not finding her place in Korea, as the other girls constantly point out to her. She feels understood in Jason’s arms, being of Canadian and Korean descent. He puts the right words to his tumultuous identity: “too white to be asian, too asian to be white“, and that’s how Rachel feels throughout the soap opera. She has her place in the spotlight, as she feels uncomfortable on camera, and has difficulty chaining dance steps, but whose voice harmonizes perfectly with Jason’s?

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When it is announced that the young man is looking for a duet partner, Mina and Rachel fight to earn the privilege. Mina not to disappoint her father, stern and powerful, and Rachel, to prove to everyone that she is worth something, and to get closer to the boy she fell in love with after all the attention he had for her. The stakes are high as her family left everything behind in the US to move to Korea to fulfill their daughter’s dream. But it’s an ultimatum that her mother gives her: if Rachel doesn’t debut during the year, she will have to give up the light to join the university benches.

Kpopmap's Best K-Lit: Here's Why Jessica Jung's First Novel "Shine" It will be your next favorite book

Jessica Jung Instagram

Sacrifices are the most important, and Rachel will learn them the hard way, losing her friends, her family and her love. She ends up not knowing who she is anymore, and if the path she chose to follow six years ago is the best for her. Supported by her mentor, YuJin, she will fight for her dreams, proving that there is no limit to her success: more than anyone else, she can shine. And despite her rocky relationship with Jason, the two lovebirds are being forced into hiding to be together. She then realizes the dishonesty of the agency she idolized, as well as the misogyny present in Korean society.

Despite recurring obstacles on her journey, Rachel doesn’t give up. The difficulties are many, fame is not necessarily what she thought, but she continues to fight hard because she deserves a chance to break into the music scene. And if she goes alone, so be it, because her dream is more important than anything else.

Kpopmap's Best K-Lit: Here's Why Jessica Jung's First Novel "Shine" It will be your next favorite book

Jessica Jung Instagram

During an interview with Teen Vogue, Jessica stated “Shine was born because I wanted to tell the truth about my experience, as only good fiction can.” In fact, many fans wonder if “Shine” is about Jessica’s real life when she mysteriously quit Girls’ Generation. She also named the American TV show “Gossip Girl” as her source of inspiration. “Shine” was published on September 29, 2020 and reissued on May 10, 2022, along with the first publication of “Bright”. Jessica also reveals five reasons to read her book, in an interview with Simon Teen: 1) The insight into trainee life, 2) The setting, 3) The romance, 4) The family ties and 5) Girl power.

Kpopmap Rating: 7.5/10

You have so many reasons to read her first novel! Let us know in the comment your impression if you did in the comment below, and if you’ve read “Bright” too!

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