Saturday, November 7, 2020

Book Review: Shine

With the popularity of K Pop groups these days, have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of these groups and how they were formed? By now K Pop fans are familiar with the fact that South Korea’s musical groups are strictly trained before they are formed and launched. The book Shine, by Jessica Jung of the girl group Girls Generation, is about a Korean-American girl who is training to be a part of one of these K Pop groups, sharing the story of her training up to her launch in a girl group.

The book revolves around the life ok Korean American Rachel Kim, who is training with a company called DB, where pop stars are selected from the trainees and launched into stardom like their current famous boy band that is led by half-Korean Jason Lee. The story gives a look at how competitive training is to be part of a pop group as well as the difficulties that Rachel is experiencing as a Korean American.

It was interesting to read about how trainees could come off as close friends in public but were not friends in real life. It made me wonder how many K-Pop groups are like this. I found it troubling how strict the company was about the diet of their trainees: while I was not surprised that there was some sort of regimen required, it was alarming that they are constantly weighed and there was pressure to look a certain way.

I wasn’t aware that for these groups they were not allowed to have their own social media accounts or share what they are doing as trainees, but that many have found a way around that by getting other people to post for them as a way to get ahead of other trainees. The book makes it seem that these trainees or pop groups tend to live double lives: the manufactured one that the company dictates and the actual life that they keep behind the scenes and away from prying eyes. 

What I liked about this book is that while there is a male love interest, the story did not focus as much on the love story as it was about the journey that Rachel was taking to fulfill her dream of being in a pop group. As someone who uprooted her family from the US to train with DB, there was a lot of pressure for her to succeed given the sacrifices that her family made for her. 

The book concluded with Rachel achieving her dream of being in a girl group, but I felt that there was still so much more that could have been shared and there were still loose ends that were not given a satisfying conclusion. 

Rachel lost her closest friend from training and there was never any closure about their friendship. Her relationship with her ex to me felt like there needed to be more said about it. Then there was the offer made to her father that she felt would tie them to a family that she did not want to be involved with. I could not help but wonder what happened to those characters and to those events and why they were not wrapped up like it should have...unless there is a sequel to this book. If there is no sequel, well that would be disappointing and mean that the book had a bad ending.

Given the controversies and rumors surrounding Jessica Jung and her departure from Girls Generation, I could not help but wonder if the story she shared mirrored her own experiences with SM Entertainment and her girl group.  It made me wonder who she patterned those people from (and who Jason Lee could be based on).

Shine is a good book if you are a fan of K-Pop, especially if you were a fan of Jessica Jung and Girls Generation. If not, it is probably best to give this a pass.


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