Review Detail

Featured
Young Adult Fiction 1315
Made in Korea
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
MADE IN KOREA by Sarah Suk is a YA Contemporary that follows Valerie, a young entrepreneur, who’s obsessed with the success of her K-beauty business, and Wes, the new kid in town, who ends up being Valerie’s direct competition. As the two of them navigate whether the school’s big enough for the both of them, they shake on a bet. Whoever makes the most money by the end of the year gets the other’s entire earnings. The only problem is they both really need the money— Valerie needs it so she can take her grandmother on her dream trip to Paris and prove herself to her parents, and Wes needs it so he can apply to music school. To win, they scheme against each other… until they start to develop feelings.

My absolute favorite part of this book is Valerie’s relationship with her grandmother. It’s so relatable. I love how Valerie’s grandma is the person that doesn’t judge her, encourages her, and reminds her of her dreams. There aren’t a lot of stories that examine this special bond and it was so nice to see that kind of love reflected here. The stress Valerie feels in trying to beat time by being successful as fast as possible for the sake of her grandma is both heart wrenching and familiar. Overall, the theme of family expectations is explored thoroughly in this novel, and Suk does a great job at shining a light on where they can come from and creating empathy for all involved.

I found Wes’ voice in particular to be really compelling— probably because he’s honest with himself in ways that Valerie isn’t. He’s also a great mirror to her, because his new and unexpected presence makes Valerie really take a look at herself and what she’s doing. Along those lines, all of the characters are presented as good people who on occasion make bad choices. In other words, everyone is guilty of something in this book, which makes them feel like real people. In the actual world, no one is perfect, and Suk’s characters represent that. They’re not idealized versions of people. They’re people.

Aside from all that, this book has been perfectly plotted. Every single thread ties up in a bow in the end, making the conclusion satisfying, but also a little dry. While I appreciate that there is a payoff for everything and can tell how much thought the author has put into this, I was missing a bit of spontaneity in the writing. Because of this, the book starts off slow, but recovers in the last third with a faster and exciting pace.

That being said, MADE IN KOREA is an enjoyable read that is sweet, relatable, and perfect for summer! The gorgeous cover is reason enough to pick it up.
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