Contemporary (Teen)

Review: Shine by Jessica Jung [ARC]

A novel that gives a behind-the-scenes look on the k-pop industry and what it takes to make it!


Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.


I love k-pop so when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I was even more excited to find that the author is Jessica, former lead singer of Girls Generation, which was hugely popular when I was growing up!

While fictional, this book is based on real-life experiences of Jessica; I was eager for her tell-all on the world of k-pop!

This book will be counting towards ARC August, hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat and for Diversify That Shelf readathon hosted by Noura @ The Perks of Being Noura.

Shine (Shine, #1) book cover

Shine (Shine, #1)

by Jessica Jung

Published August 29, 2020 by Simon Pulse
Series: Shine
ISBN: 1534462511

Data from Goodreads

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.

Rep: Korean representation

TW: bullying, body-shaming, dieting, mention of physical punishment

My Review: An Interesting Exposé of the K-pop World

I really enjoyed this book! It grabbed my attention from page one and I raced through it in 3 hours!

The Pros: What worked for me

  • The pacing was on-point and there was never a dull moment. It really did feel like I was reading a korean drama – but one about K-pop. I could not put this book down, it was THAT addictive and intense!
  • The novel gives a behind-the-scenes reveal about the K-pop industry, and it is CRAZY! I can’t imagine training 24/7 and having every aspect of my life controlled by others.
  • I’m really glad that the author speaks up about important themes in the industry like:
    • the toxic nature of the industry: the trainees undergo a ridiculous schedule and are constantly criticized over their looks, weight, and talent. They face so much anxiety and pressure to constantly compete and there is no guarantee of a pay-off.
    • the double-standards between males and females: (Click to reveal spoiler) there were so many instances where Jason got away with being late, or not eating what he wanted, or going off schedule … but if Rachel had even a minor infraction, she was reprimanded severely. There is such a stark difference in treatment! Jason’s mixed ethnicity makes him sexy, but Rachel being Korean American is a bad thing. Jason’s looks are glorified but Rachel is criticized constantly. It made me sick to think of how much scrutiny she was going through – and how that same level was not applied to Jason.
  • The characters have depth to them!  Rachel, our MC, has a nuanced personality and my heart really went out to her. I also liked that the other characters were unique.
  • The story itself was interesting. Rachel is trying to make her way in the industry, trying to navigate the politics from the higher-ups as well as from her peers. All the while, she is trying to balance friendships, education, and a potential love interest.
  • Other notable mentions: there are underground places for k-pop stars to hang out without being mobbed by the public and there are also references to Canada, which I loved (cuz I’m Canadian and miss Timbits, so don’t judge me!)

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • The romance in this novel was a bit of insta-love with very convenient meet-cute tropes. They weren’t terrible, but it also wasn’t my favourite part of the story.
  • There is a lot of body-shaming in this book. It’s not surprising considering the rumors about the industry but I wish the author had taken the time to properly address the wrongness of it. In my opinion, it isn’t enough to just mention the criticisms leveled at trainees; I wanted there to be a proper call-out that this desire to be thin is unhealthy and toxic, both physically and mentally.

Overall, I really liked this book! It was fast-paced, riveting, and had a decent cast of characters. It felt like an exposé but with a storyline I could get behind, and an MC whose fate I was invested in. I’ve heard there may be a sequel – if so, I will definitely be reading it!

Have you heard about this book?

What do you think about beauty standards in the k-pop industry?

Let me know in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Review: Shine by Jessica Jung [ARC]

  1. I haven’t read this book yet but I have heard a lot about the body shaming in the industry from ex-trainees like Grazy-Grace and others on YouTube. They talk about how it seriously damaged their mental and physical health…and just killed their self-esteem.
    Because of that I have to agree with you on that bit about both addressing it and educating readers on WHY it is wrong.
    As for overall beauty standards, I feel like more and more we’ve become fixated on our images…especially because of social media. I’m really hoping that in the next few year’s we will see more body positivity and also ways for people who have low self esteem to gain confidence in themselves.

    1. Yeah, I 100% agree with you. While the author mentioned the obsession with looking a certain way, and being a certain weight, there was never actually an instance where the author showed strong disapproval of these things. I think that if it had been more explicit, then I would have had less of a problem!
      I definitely hope that there is a push for more body positivity, especially in industries like modelling and performing; just because they are trained to put themselves forward doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally because of the ridiculous beauty standards they are forced to maintain!

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