Thanks to TBR & Beyond Tours for the opportunity to participate in their book tour for Made in Korea (click here for the full book tour schedule), an awesome debut YA contemporary novel from Sarah Suk, which was released this past Tuesday, May 18th! When I first read its description — “Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank” — I knew I would be absolutely hooked. I devoured this book in just a few short sittings and totally fell in love with Valerie and Wes, both as a couple and as individuals. While I loved getting to learn more about Korean culture such as K-Pop, K-Beauty, and haenyeo (female divers in Jeju), I mostly loved seeing how Valerie and Wes come to term with their own identities, passions, challenges, and more.
Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
I always love stories that portray the Asian American experience as diverse, beautiful, and joyous, rather than as a monolith. For example, Wes wants to explore his passion for music, while Valerie is in love with running her K-Beauty business. Her cousin Charlie is a bit of a class clown who loves sports, while his crush Pauline has a passion for sea life. I loved how diverse their interests were. As a young person, and especially as a young Asian person, I used to really internalize a lot of stereotypes and racist thinking in terms of the model minority myth. For example, I’d often choose my activities or interests based on what I thought others viewed me as, versus what I was actually passionate about, which looking back, seems silly but was definitely a thing. This book was such a wonderful example of young Asian people really finding joy in their passions, whatever those things may be. And as an adult reading it, it brought me a lot of joy!
I also loved that while this book was a fun romance with an awesome enemies-to-lovers trope, juxtaposed with the two Korean businesses battling it out for the top spot, it also dealt with identity in really powerful ways. I loved reading the conversations between Wes and Valerie as they discuss their own identities as Koreans and dissect how their individual family experiences play into how they view themselves. I think it’s such a powerful, important discussion to have and as an adult who is just now coming to accept who I am and recognize my own unique identity as an Asian American woman, I wish I had read a conversation like this back in high school or middle school. I know it would’ve resonated deeply with me and maybe helped me learn to accept myself earlier. However, better late than never! This book handled these discussions with grace, compassion, and dignity, along with a dose of romance, friendship, humor, and love.
I give this wonderful debut a 4 out of 5, and I would recommend it to any fans of young adult or YA romance written by Own Voices writers.
Here are some quotes that really resonated with me that I wanted to share — I hope that if you decide to read this book, you find lots of joy with it as well!
“But Korean culture is more than just K-pop and K-dramas. Maybe there’s a way for you to connect with your heritage in other ways, especially if you feel like it’s important to you and you just don’t know how to bridge the gap.”Made in Korea
“You can’t always be nice to get what you want. Sometimes you have to be ambitious and fight to prove that you’re worth what you think you are.” ….
“Yeah, that’s true, but sometimes you have to recognize that people are people and not just customers you do business with. There isn’t always a price tag or black-and-white answer for why people do what they do.”Made in Korea
“There are just moments, you know, little things like strangers asking me where I’m from or why my English is so good or yelling ‘ni hao’ to me on the streets. Or going to the movie theater in the city I grew up in but not seeing anyone on the screen who looks like me.”Made in Korea
“Was it worth it to give up on someone who saw something in me just to try to prove something to someone who didn’t?”Made in Korea
“Yeah, but it never is just about one conversation, is it? It’s about being brave enough to start it, wise enough to choose the right words, and self-aware enough to know what’s going on inside your brain.”Made in Korea
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53141483-made-in-korea
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Made-Korea-Sarah-Suk/dp/1534474374/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Made+in+Korea+by+Sarah+Suk&qid=1615752839&sr=8-1
- Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/made-in-korea-sarah-suk/1137941907
- Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Made-Korea-Sarah-Suk/9781534474376?ref=grid-view&qid=1615752846689&sr=1-1
- Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/made-in-korea/9781534474376-item.html?ikwid=Made+in+Korea+by+Sarah+Suk&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=7bde4a04f6ad4431d17461508ad58dd0 IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781534474376
About the author:
Sarah Suk (pronounced like soup with a K) lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes stories and admires mountains. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the water, taking film photos, or eating a bowl of bingsu. You can visit her on Twitter and Instagram @sarahaelisuk.
Sarah is represented by Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary Agency.
- Website: https://www.sarahsuk.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahaelisuk/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahaelisuk/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19557168.Sarah_Suk
Giveaway (US/Canada Only):
One winner will receive a finished copy of Made in Korea. The giveaway will end on May 24th. Click here to enter the giveaway.