Fake-dating tropes are cool…
When done well…
This book is the reason I don’t particularly like the fake-dating trope.
Blurb High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
Before I speak about this novel tomorrow with The YA Room at Readings book store in Melbourne’s State Library, I want to come on here and review the book for you all because I sure do have some strong feelings about it.
I went into this novel hoping with all my heart that it wasn’t going to be your typical fake-dating trope where the couple starts dating to hide their significant others for whatever reason and then fall in love, but SPOILERS!!!!
IT WAS *insert shocked and really disappointed face here*
I am not a fan of fake-dating tropes for that exact reason. Like, it’s just so sad that they not only fake cheated, but real–cheated because they were too blind to see their love in the first place. Also, don’t get me started on the secrets. I’m sorry but if you’re trying to protect someone by fake-dating another person, you should be able to trust the other person with the fake-dating secret or you really don’t care about them at all.
What I wanted for this story, especially since it is supposed to be about breaking the mould and going against the family, is that I wanted the fake-dating to be a successful cover where both parties were able to happily end up with their protected other in the end, successfully breaking the mould. Instead, the novel felt more like two rebellious teenagers who wanted to annoy their parents, then realised that being inside their parent’s bubble wasn’t all that bad, got comfortable and moved into the bubble. After all the talk about how they are different from their parents… it didn’t seem as such in the end.
Now that that’s out of the way, I want to highlight the positive points of the novel, which is the Korean representation in terms of the way Frank’s parents speak and the pressure put on him from his migrant parents to share their – for lack of a better word – racist views and exist within their little bubble.
As a second-generation Australian (I hope I said that right), who’s grandparents came from Europe, I know what it’s like to hear family talk badly about others from the same home continent. It’s not until I was older that I actually came to realise that this is actually racism, despite the fact that they came from the same continent, or that they had the same skin tone, it’s racism and that’s what Frank was observing with his parents as they spoke badly about people from other countries in Asia. Frankly (see what I did there), I really appreciated that kind of representation and those parts the most in the novel. It was the parts I could relate to.
I caught myself thinking, as I have on many occasions; Would it have been easier for me to date an Italian boy as it was for Frank to date Joy? The answer is always the same. Yes, of course, but I didn’t want that and I’m happy with who I’m with and I get to experience a whole other nationality when I’m with my boyfriend AND that’s what I wanted from this novel!
I am in no way saying that my parents are like Frank’s because my parents have lived in Australia their entire life, but what I am saying is that I saw similarities in some things that were said that allowed me to put myself in Frank’s shoes (at a very watered down level).
That’s why when I went into this novel, I wanted a relationship for Frank that wasn’t what his parents wanted – purely Korean – and wasn’t conforming, but actually breaking that mould and showing his parents that they couldn’t disown another child even if they wanted to.
Despite all of the things I didn’t want in this novel, it is fair to say that I actually enjoyed the vast majority of it, with my disappointment hitting around the point where he cheated on Brit, got with Joy… Oh, and I can’t stand cheating… Then I kinda just rode the wave of meh to the end of the story. This actually made his father’s death less sad than it should have been.
I also really really loved David Yoon’s writing. He is amazing at capturing a character and developing the voice and place of a character in the real world. I would 100% read anything else he writes again!
★ Rating ★
I rated this book 3.5/5 stars because it isn’t a real disappointment but it could’ve been improved by tweaking a couple of things, such as; having Frank actually go on with disappointing his parents, NOT cheating on his girlfriend and not sitting inside his parent’s bubble by dating a Korean girl. You love who you love I guess…
See you back here on Monday’s (book reviews), Wednesday’s (storytime/ writing updates) and Saturday’s (other bookish content).