Reviews, Young Adult

Shine {Shine #1} spoiler free

This book review is spoiler free!

Author: Jessica Jung

Series: Shine

Audience: YA

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


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, GirlsGeneration.

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.


Plot / Storyline

We immediately start with 1 of the training courses that the trainees (someone who is training to become a k-pop star) must follow. Media training. You immediately see that the world is rock solid if you do not yet meet all expectations. Rachel has some difficulty with an interview and her group members are not really helping either. She gets through it but is immediately criticized, just like the others.

Then it is explained how Rachel rolled into it. After being scouted, she begged her mother to move to Seoul to become a trainee. Her mother eventually agrees, but she has 1 condition. Rachel just has to go to school and get her diploma during the week. The bosses of DB entertainment disagreed with this but made an exception eventually. Rachel mainly trains on weekends. Now we are six years later. Rachel is still a trainee and is not very comfortable in the group but everything changes when she meets Jason Lee and he is more fun than she expected. Is there any chance that Rachel can make her debut?


Writing Style

Jessica’s writing style is clear and easy to follow. That makes it attractive to read this book in one go. There are Korean words in the book but there is a glossary at the back. Super handy! I really like that Korean words have been used in the book.


Rachel Kim

Rachel is a Korean-American girl with the dream to break through in the k-pop world. When we meet her, she is a trainee in the middle of her training.

Mina Choo

Mina is a group member of Rachel. She belongs to one of the oldest and most powerful families in Korea. Unfortunately she is not the friendliest person.

Akari Masuda

Akari is Rachel’s friend who is also a trainee. She is from Japan and moved to South Korea because of her father’s job.

Jason Lee

The golden boy of DB entertainment. He is a well-known k-pop star and loved by the girls.

Leah Kim

Leah is Rachel’s little sister and a fan of k-pop and k-drama.


As the blurb indicates, there is certainly enough romance in this book! Especially if you have one thing for celebrities😉 It’s insta-love so keep that in mind.

What I liked the most

The plot twists! I thought I understood something and then that turned out not to be the case at all. The moment that Rachel’s life changed really stands out. You feel it coming that her life will be turned upside down.


Warning: This book covers intense topics such as bullying, dieting, body shaming, and physical punishment.

Best of YA books was kind enough to send me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The life of a trainee isn’t that glamorous until you meet a star and get the chance to pursue a career, right? Jessica Jung has written a beautiful book that shows both the glamorous and the darker side of the k-pop world. Training 24/7, having to watch your weight carefully and making everything looking effortless sounds tough to maintain. The double standard between male and female k-pop stars also came to light, something that I actually didn’t think much about myself. That was certainly an eye opener for me. What I like is that Korean words are used in the book. It just makes it easier to imagine you are in South Korea. At the back of the book is a glossary so that it is easy to follow if you do not know Korean. I thought it was a downside that the romance in the book was insta-love. I like it when it’s a bit more build-up.


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