Review: K-pop Confidential by Stephan Lee

Review: K-pop Confidential by Stephan LeeK-pop Confidential by Stephan Lee

Published by Point on September 15th 2020
Also by this author: K-Pop Revolution (K-pop Confidential, #2)
Pages: 332

In this novel about chasing big dreams, a Korean-American girl travels to Seoul in hopes of debuting in a girl group at the same K-pop company behind the most popular boy band on the planet.

Candace Park knows a lot about playing a role. For most of her life, she's been playing the role of the quiet Korean girl who takes all AP classes and plays a classical instrument, keeping her dreams of stardom-and her obsession with SLK, K-pop's top boyband-to herself. She doesn't see how a regular girl like her could possibly become one of those K-pop goddesses she sees on YouTube. Even though she can sing. Like, really sing.

So when Candace secretly enters a global audition held by SLK's music label, the last thing she expects is to actually get a coveted spot in their trainee program. And convincing her strict parents to let her to go is all but impossible ... although it's nothing compared to what comes next.

Under the strict supervision of her instructors at the label's headquarters in Seoul, Candace must perfect her performance skills to within an inch of her life, learn to speak Korean fluently, and navigate the complex hierarchies of her fellow trainees, all while following the strict rules of the industry. Rule number one? NO DATING, which becomes impossible to follow when she meets a dreamy boy trainee. And in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.

If she doesn't have what it takes to become a perfect, hair-flipping K-pop idol, what will that mean for her family, who have sacrificed everything to give her the chance? And is a spot in the most hyped K-pop girl group of all time really worth risking her friendships, her future, and everything she believes in?

K-pop is booming. The pop bands from Korea are finally taking over the world, so it was to be expected it would find its way into other pop culture as well. K-pop Confidential is one of the first wave of K-pop books and I really wanted to read this (and all of the others) as I really like K-pop (although I’d hardly classify myself as a member of any fan club).

We follow Candance as she’s been picked to join the heavy traineeship at a K-pop company. Once the trainee program is over, they’ll announce the members of a new group. The K-pop industry is just that. The groups are produced heavily, following a specific formula, so if you don’t fit the cookie-cutter shape, you’re out. It’s ruthless. Also the perfect place for an interesting story. Candance struggles with the Korean work ethic as an American Korean who never lived there.

Candace and the rest of her trainee group are all completely different from each other which causes friction. It’s interesting but it can also be a bit frustrating as it goes on. If you can get passed it, all of them have a nice arc. Not the best, but satisfying at least. The book was dozens of named characters so it can be a bit confusing if you’re not expecting it.

I liked the story itself. It works well with the world the author has created. It’s a competition-heavy story with a slight romance on the side. I thought the romance would be more interesting but sadly no. Maybe we’ll get more romantic tension in the sequel.

I give K-pop Confidential four stars. It’s entertaining and I think it gives a nice insight into the industry. I loved that even the older K-pop groups from a decade (or longer) ago were referenced and made me think the author loves the music genre as much as the readers. Definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who even has a slight interest in K-pop.

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