Rivals to romance will always get me. It’s one of my all time favorite tropes and so seeing it featuring these Asian MCs gave me back ten years of my life. Made in Korea is a charming read featuring one of my favorite characters which reminded me a lot of me! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I need to start this review with my favorite element of Made in Korea which is Valerie’s character. Valerie’s character was not only wonderfully complex, but it made me feel so seen. Valerie is business oriented, focused on her ambition and her love for her grandmother, all while feeling like she will never measure up. But her fierce ambition and drive which, in many ways, stops her from seeing those around her, felt so relatable to me. Watching her evolve as a character, to realize that ambition in extremes has the tendency to erode our present, kept me reading.
That, paired with the romance story line, which was precious and extremely cute, made Made in Korea a win! The dual POV writing style of Made in Korea was an excellent writing choice to allow readers to see the motivations, mistakes, and misunderstandings from both sides. The ways both Wes and Valerie end up in hot waters without realizing, both focused on their goals, but will it destroy any chance of their love? My heart broke for Wes and the ways he wishes his parents could see his passion for music.
Both of the conflicts for Wes and Valerie have to be another of my favorite elements. As readers we can see their struggling goals and, as an adult reader, I was able to see the miscommunications and pressures of Valerie’s sister. Tough and complex sister relationships will always get me. I do wish there had been a little more space devoted to these elements at the end. But overall I was such a fan of this character driven romance story. Made in Korea is also full of conversations about connecting to our culture and family. And the conversations between Valerie and Wes about how they don’t feel like they fit in, had me in the feels.
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