I wasn’t expecting to do a book review on here but here we go.
I heard about the former Girls’ Generation member coming out with a book about being a Kpop Idol a few months ago. I didn’t give it much attention. Jessica was my favorite Girls Generation member. I knew if anyone had an interesting story to tell about the industry, it was her. But, I knew if she was to write a tell all it would be released at a time when no one cares anymore about the SNSD drama. Or it would release sooner but super watered down. She’s already gone to war with SM, I doubt she wants to do that twice. If it wasn’t for Golden Stars (her fans) she wouldn’t have the life post-idol life she currently has.
So now we have this situation where Jessica clearly wants to tell her side of the story. But how does she tell her side and keep herself out of a multi-million dollar lawsuit with her former employer? Write a young adult book loosely based on her experience being in one of the greatest girl groups of all time of course.
If you’re reading Shine to get Jessica’s unfiltered thoughts about Girls’ Generation, trainee life, idol life, and SM Entertainment, don’t even bother picking this up. You will be disappointed. Your $17 is best spent towards your faves next mini album or virtual concert. If you want a fictional story about a teen girl’s journey to becoming an idol, the sabotage and drama behind the scenes, then this might be your book.
Shine is 344 words and 27 chapters. I finished it in a night. Outside of Rachel, the protagonist, Mina, her rival and general hell-raiser, and Jason, the IT boy idol whose age I don’t recall ever given, so that’s kinda gross. I mean he’s of drinking age and the girls are 16 international age, 17 Korean age. This guy’s group is established so idk maybe he’s 19 or 20, but it sounds like he’s much older (23-26 range). Which is gross. Anyway, these are the main three characters that are the main focus of the book. There are other characters but they’re pretty forgettable. We don’t get as many details about them other than to be plot devices or have their story cut short. Now I think if Shine is successful we could get a sequel to get more clarification or a proper end of different arcs. The way Shine ends to me, it could have a second book covering the next year of Rachel’s life.
Rachel is one of those I’m not like most girls type of girls. Mina is your typical mean girl with daddy issues. We do one interaction with Mina and her father and part of why Mina is the way she is. But she is definitely more than the bitch here to ruin Rachel’s day. I would have liked it if the story wasn’t told from Rachel’s perspective. I would have loved to seen chapters focused on Mina and Jason. I hate that we’re only seeing things from Rachel’s perspective. She isn’t an untrustworthy narrator. But she does have a bit of a victim complex. She’s not as woke as she thinks she is.
The best parts of Shine to me is when reality hits Rachel in the face. All that glitters is not gold. But Kpop fans already know this. Well the ones that have been through enough scandals and read or watched interviews from current and former idols do. We know the training period is rigorous. We know female trainees get weight regularly. Some have been passed over or kicked out for being above the weight requirements. We know plastic surgery is encouraged. We know they train for up to 20 hours a day in some cases, having to give up sleep, school, family time, and personal events to maybe become an idol. Debut is never guaranteed. And even after you debut there’s no guaranteed your group will be successful. It’s all a risk.
We know female idols can be the nation’s jewel one moment and the nation’s disappointment the next. Male idols can have a girlfriend, a dui, and gambling charges against them. And there will be waves of fans there supporting them all the way. If a female idol is seen in a restaurant with a guy, she’s unprofessional and should leave her group, immediately. Shine relies heavily on these things being large reveals. Like these are insider secrets.
We know companies have their favorite trainees/idols. This is brought up numerous times in Shine. Rachel makes it clear along with other characters that she’s one of the faves. But Rachel brushes this off. She wants us to believe despite being the company favorite, she has struggles too. And her struggles as a foreigner overshadow that. That’s all we should focus on. Rachel thinks people don’t like her because she’s Korean American.
Mina, her rival knows and sees the favoritism in action. Mina has a right to not like Rachel based on that alone. Yeah, Mina, comes from a family with loads of money, but money can’t buy a genuine connection with people. We don’t know why the head of their company likes Rachel so much. But it definitely plays in Rachel’s favor than she admits.
There’s talk about media play and doing things for clicks mentioned in Shine as well. Again this isn’t a surprise to Kpop fans either. Actually, this isn’t a surprise to anyone who follows celebrity culture, Korean or western. We know some relationships are staged. We know companies leak information to gossip sites. Again none of this is a surprise.
I’ve gotten a few questions about Shine being good. And by good they mean how many Girls’ Generation tea is there. I think there are some aspects of Jessica’s experience in Girls’ Generation in Rachel and in another older scorned female character who shows up later on. I like Shine for what it is. A cringey young adult book about idol life with two trainees fighting over a placement in a girl group and over a piece of shit guy. I think Shine would make a great drama. It has some Gossip Girl aspects to it.
On my Instagram Story I ranked Shine 7 out of 10. Some may say that’s too high. But I see potential in this book. This could easily grow into a series. There’s a lot of world building you have to do in the first book. So I let that slide. I liked the connection foreign trainees and idols had with each other mentioned in Shine too. Overall I liked the book. It’s not a book I suggest people run and get now. But if you’re looking for an easy and somewhat quick read, check it out. You can find it digitally and in paper form at most major retailers like Target and Barnes and Noble.
I hope y’all like this surprise post. I wasn’t initially going to do a review but my ig was blowing up after I post I received the book last night. I’ll be back with September Best/Worst soon.