Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Shine Series

Other books planned to be in the series:


Synopsis for Shine (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.


Series: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Bright, to be published October 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Music
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 29, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not a regular listener of K-pop by any means but the entire world fascinates me. If you want to get a crash course on the world, I highly recommend the Netflix Series Explained and the 20 minute episode they do on the world of K-pop. If you think Disney manufactures stars, it really has nothing on the industry in South Korea!

I don’t really remember how I learned about the book but I Wishlisted it on Netgalley and was super excited when my wish to read an ARC of Shine was granted!

What I Liked:

–Cutthroat World of K-Pop–

The tagline that this book is like “Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han” is very accurate. You’ve got all the drama, cultural clashes and joys of first love that all those books explore here in many ways.

While I hope that some of the ordeals Rachel has to endure are embellished for theatrics, I’m not entirely convinced they are. If you’ve read any of the headlines about K-pop stars and their struggles with the pressure and their mental health, you know that some of the scenarios Rachel experiences were likely inspired by real events and tactics. The author, Jessica Jung is a former K-pop star herself so I feel like she puts in some of her own experiences into this book to give it that authentic look behind the scenes.

–Rachel’s Struggle With Her Identity–

Added to the drama is Rachel’s coming of age story as an individual person. While she is a trainee in the world of K-pop in Korea, her identity as an American Korean girl creates this barrier that stops her from being fully embraced by her peers despite how hard she tries. Her struggle helps to shape her character and her reactions to the various things thrown her way. It’s quite the character evolution and I really enjoyed that aspect to the story because it helped to ground the sometimes melodramatics of the K-pop world.

–Treatment of Women vs Men in the Industry–

While I thought the introduction of the idea of a double-standard in the music industry came out of nowhere, I really liked the themes it explored once it became a little more ingrained in the story. It’s crazy that I have to write this in 2020 but there is still a major difference in how men and women are treated in many environments but I think it’s even more of a concern in the entertainment industry. So I liked that we get to see that at play here.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Choppy Start with a Lag in the Middle–

I struggled at the start to keep Rachel’s worlds straight and everything that is happening in it. And I felt like the middle lagged just a touch. But I still really enjoyed reading it as a whole.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I loved how everything came together in the end and can’t wait to see what happens next!

My Rating: 4/5

Shine 4/5 | Bright TBP


This was an entertaining read from start to finish. Perfect for K-pop fans or those who love stories about people trying to reach their dreams!

Read if You Like: K-pop, coming of age stories
Avoid if You: dislike YA, dislike books with drama


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