Haneul "Skye" Shin is talented, fat, and contrary to the max. Her mom tells Skye she can't dance because she's fat and Skye just commits to it harder, which I can relate to because I'm just as contrary. A dude told me throughout middle school that I can't sing and now I can almost carry a tune! Especially if that tune is "Coming for You" by JoJo. I nail that song.
But as confident as she is in her own abilities, Skye isn't immune to being hurt. Her mother's horrific comments on her weight and a string of diets so severe that one of them landed Skye in the hospital have destroyed their parent-child relationship. It takes help from her new friends Tiffany and Lana to even put a name to what her mom put her through: emotional abuse. Her mom is the stealthily hateful, "I'm just concerned for your health" fatphobe that fat people know well. Show judge Jang Bora, fellow contestants, countless Internet jerks who through pig emojis at Skye once the show premieres--no one could be unaffected by all that hatred.
None of that will stop her, though, because Skye Skin was born for stardom. Lordy, her final performance in the show and the riot act she reads Bora is amazing.
Also? This book is gay. Soooooooo gay! Fellow contestants and new friends Tiffany and Lana are a lesbian couple. Both Skye and her love interest Henry are bisexual and have no idea what to do with each other for a while, but it's all good once they learn to talk things out and he starts sending her pics of his adorable dog Snowball. Sending your crush pics of your pet is always a good idea. Kenry is a bit sheltered thanks to being a celebrity in his own right and the child of a major Korean family, but he's very kind and supportive. That picture of Will Smith dramatically gesturing at the glory of his wife on the red carpet? That's Henry Cho embodied in a single image.
All four of these characters have homophobia and biphobia in their lives, but once it's dicussed, the book moves on. That may not satisfy some readers, but it helps keep the book's vibe happy and upbeat.
Getting across the glitz and energy of a song/dance competition with just words is difficult, but Lee gets the job done and makes each round of You're My Shining Star come alive. She doesn't go into meticulous detail when describing the dances yet keeps the imagery vivid. Some of the choreography and songs come from real music, so readers can look them up to see the dances in motion.
Why isn't this book already a movie? SERIOUSLY, WHY? I'd pay good money for it. I'll Be the One is an unparalleled delight akin to a K-pop Dumplin' but even better. You should all buy this book ASAP so we can get that movie made.