One of the greatest gifts of These Times to me has been my discovery of how much I love K-Pop. Short for “Korean Pop Music”, it’s a behemoth industry that I am many years late to the party on, but ever so grateful to be here. The boyband BTS is the major name in this space and they made quite a few headlines this year, so my guess is that the name rings a bell. For anyone, like me, who felt overwhelmed and wanted to check out what all the fuss was about, but had no idea where to start – NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast did an excellent intro.
Once I started hearing about the culture of the companies that produce these bands, and watched the Netflix documentary on Blackpink – the girl group taking the K-pop world by storm – I knew my next step was to find books where these folks find their happily ever afters.
Luckily, because I was so late to this trend, I had a lot to consume! The best of the bunch I read is Stephan Lee’s début, K-pop Confidential. The book follows Korean-American Candace Park as she convinces her family to let her have a summer to head to one of the grueling academies and try to make it as a K-pop star. Along the way she makes friends, enemies, confidants, but most importantly, she learns who she is, what she wants, and what she will or won’t compromise to chase her dreams.
It’s a completely by-the-book coming of age tale set in a world I knew little about. It’s specificity, therefore, became universal and I was enchanted. Sure, I’ve never been put on a starvation diet by a Korean record label, but I remember the pressure of eating in public as a fat teenager and knowing that everyone around me had Thoughts on what I put in my mouth.
I’m not, by any stretch, an avid YA reader, but it’s a genre I dip in and out of. If you’re the same, or you’re looking for a gift for a YA reader in your life, give this one a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.