Flip the Script

Grade : B

In the first few chapters, Flip the Script by Lyla Lee seems like it isn’t going anywhere special: heroine Hana Jin has landed a lead role in the K-Drama Fated Destiny opposite K-Pop star Bryan Yoon in his first acting gig, and to boost ratings for their show, they are asked to have a fake relationship. It’s only the second ratings gambit that makes things interesting: changing the show’s romantic plotline to a love triangle, and casting Hana’s best friend/top rival Minjee Park as the other woman. Hana’s in a fake relationship with Bryan, but she’s bi, and it’s Minjee Hana can’t stop thinking about.

My main source of tension as I did the reading wasn’t ‘Will they or won’t they?’ with the characters but more ‘will they or won’t they?’ with the author. If Minjee had been male, I would have known from the beginning that she would come in as Bryan’s rival, but I’m so burned by queerbaiting in TV that I can’t turn off the part of my brain that doesn’t really believe the queer relationship will actually manifest. If you are someone who doesn’t derive tension from this, you may find this book a lot more predictable. It also has coming-out as a main plot device, which many queer romances have moved past (although it’s more age appropriate for YA, and also not as redundant with US stories I’ve read because LGBTQ+ culture in Korea is so different).

The Korean setting is well-developed. The characters visit real locations, such as Namsan Tower and Lotte World, which are described accurately (I’ve been there). Bryan’s K-Pop world is realistic, and products like Korean street snacks are impeccably described. Hana is Korean-American, and the issues of her struggling to feel like a “real Korean” are authentic as well, for instance, with her dialogue pronunciation and her feeling of being a misfit in Korean traditional hanbok. I appreciated that this is that rare YA book featuring supportive parents. Hana’s parents support her professionally (they have given up a lot to leave Florida in order to give Hana the chance to pursue acting in Seoul) and also regarding her sexuality.

The least realistic part of Flip the Script is the same problem I had with the author’s previous book (set in the same world but not necessary reading prior to this one): the victory of our young people over The System. When a producer discovers that Hana and Minjee are not just hanging out as friends, he suspends production of Fated Destiny and gives them the ultimatum: if they want the show to resume shooting, they must break up. Minjee, Hana, and Bryan not only pressure the company making their drama to get them back on the air, but they get the producer fired, AND they rewrite the original ending to be queer-friendly. I love the ending the kids suggest, but unfortunately, as with the previous heroine’s subversion of a K-Pop talent show, it’s just not credible. It would have been much more believable for the kids to make their own video ending, fanfic style, that the fans embraced as the real one.

But I loved the book’s epilogue where Minjee takes Hana to see how queer kids have embraced Fated Destiny’s finale, traveling to the filming location to re-enact the show’s iconic beach-stroll ending with their own partners. Visiting sets and playing out scenes is a popular and social-media friendly fan behavior that queer fans have had less access to, and it’s genuinely sweet and touching to see that story open up fandom for them.

While Flip the Script is not one of those YA books that will strike a chord with adult readers as much as young people, I think it will be great for its intended age group. Even for adult readers, there is satisfaction and joy to be had. I finished it feeling uplifted and positive about what it means for the kids in Hana’s fictional world to have Fated Destiny, and for kids in our real world to have Hana’s fictional life.

Caroline Russomanno

I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.

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