“…it was a book that was cozy, enjoyable, and poignant…”

~ Under the Covers

Made in Korea is about two Korean-American high schoolers, Valerie and Wes. Valerie runs a Korean beauty product line with her cousin Charlie, which has been very successful since its inception. Until now. Wes is the new kid in town, again. His mom’s job causes his family to move around often, so Wes never really feels at home anywhere. That’s why it comes as a shock to Wes when he accidentally sells K-pop merch and becomes an instant success and rival to Valerie. Wes ultimately decides to pursue his newly found business because he is trying to pay his way through music school, unbeknownst to his disapproving parents. However, Valerie has an underlying motivation as well—in order to prove her worth to her judgmental mother, Valerie aspires to take her grandmother, Valerie’s best friend, to Paris. Valerie reasons that if she can pay her own way to Paris based on the proceeds of her business, her mother might finally offer her some approval. When it becomes apparent that there isn’t room for both businesses, Valerie and Wes must figure out how to coexist as business owners, friends, and maybe more.

This was truly an enjoyable read. I felt like I was watching a familiar rom com or Hallmark movie where I was rooting for both characters to ultimately find their way to a happy ending. I don’t want to over simplify the book, though. Suk includes a lot of topics to be taken seriously by the characters and readers alike. Topics like, identity, parental approval, being true to your self and culture, and miscommunication. One of the topics that I enjoyed seeing play out was miscommunication—in a high school (and lately, adult) setting, this often leads to ghosting. I liked how the characters acknowledged that being upfront and honest with people ends up being so much easier and more effective than trying to tip toe around uncomfortable conversations. This is obviously easier said than done, which I think is why is resonated with me. This isn’t just a “young adult” issue—everyone at some point struggles with this as well. This is just one example of how Suk skillfully incorporates topics that apply not only to young adults but adult readers, too.

Another notable feature of Made in Korea is, unsurprisingly, the references to Korean culture. Suk includes Korean words and phrases, but always provides an English comparable. Suk does this in a way that wasn’t distracting—the Korean and it’s English counterpart flowed very well, and I learned something new about the culture along the way.

What prevented me from giving this 5 stars is the predictability. As I mentioned, it definitely felt like a rom com. That definitely isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t think one of the goals of the book was surprises and plot twists. To me, the predictability made the pace of the book slow a bit— it wasn’t a compulsive read that I couldn’t tear myself away from. However, it was a book that was cozy, enjoyable, and poignant—one that I would definitely recommend!


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[about-author author=”Sarah Suk”]

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