I think I was excited about I’ll Be the One ever since I heard about it. A rom-com celebrating K-Pop, body positivity, and music? What’s more to love? And I was completely right in my enthusiasm. Keep reading my book review of I’ll Be the One to see why I loved this book!
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: fatphobia, queerphobia, emotional abuse
I have been looking forward to I’ll Be the One for months now and it was so fantastic. I’ll Be the One examines beauty standards both in American and Korean culture, the pressures we have to shrink who we are, and the beauty in finding joy. Featuring a whole bunch of queer characters who are utterly delightful – Skye is bisexual and she has two friends who are in a sapphic relationship – I’ll Be the One examines Skye’s dealing with people’s intolerance regarding her sexuality and appearance. I can’t speak to any of the marginalizations in this book (Korean American, fat, or bisexual), but I’ll Be the One offers a nuanced look at all of these pieces of Skye.
Skye balances her Korean culture through her mother’s “tough love” approach and the beauty standards to which Korean women are subjected. Since it’s a K-Pop competition, it’s heavily influenced by what would work in Korea and Korean beauty standards. At the same time, Skye struggles with the fatphobia of her mother, her peers, and the judges. Skye herself is entirely comfortable with her body, it’s about everyone else who judges her and makes assumptions. Or even, in the case of her mother, who is ashamed of her. I loved seeing how she celebrated her abilities and her appearance which came from her own love and positivity. But Lee did not hide how the amounts of comments from other people, especially her mother, still hurts her and can cause her to question herself.
I finished I’ll Be the One in one day. It’s entertaining, with tons of action and intrigue – especially as someone who knows not very much about the world of K-Pop. But what kept me constantly hooked were the characters. I love how strong and dedicated Skye is. The ways she will chase her dreams and be entirely unapologetic. Even more so because of how awful people are to Skye and the ways she does not let that change her perception of herself. Other characters I loved were Henry who is this soft bisexual cinnamon roll who just loves his dog and has somehow never had tacos! I also appreciated how Lee showcases Skye’s friendships and the importance of them in her life.
I’ll Be the One is able to discuss many important issues: the ways our family might not accept our queer identity, cultural appropriation versus shared interests, unhealthy beauty standards, and believing in ourselves no matter what others say. At the same time, I’ll Be the One is an entertaining, heartfelt, and hilarious book that promises fun and laughter. A win in every way.