A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'll Be the One, by Lyla Lee, is a coming-of-age romance narrated by the main character, a Korean American teen girl who enters a reality-show K-pop competition. Skye Shin is a bisexual, fat (as she calls herself) teen who dreams of K-pop stardom. Even though she loves herself as she is, she still struggles against harsh criticism from her mom, who's ashamed of Skye's appearance, and the entertainment industry's view of beauty. The story is aimed at teens, but the content isn't too intense or steamy for middle-school readers. The romance aspect is tame and only shows some kissing. The strong language is infrequent and is limited to "crap," "God," and "Jesus." The passages depicting the critical and emotionally abusive comments Skye endures from her mom might be upsetting for some readers. Body positivity and positive portrayals of LGBTQ teens figure heavily into the story. The book offers lots of discussion opportunities about beauty standards, sexual orientation, and cultural differences between immigrant parents and their children.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In I'LL BE THE ONE, Skye Shin is a Korean American teen who wants to be the next K-pop sensation. She's studied dance and singing for years, excelling at both. When a Korean K-pop reality competition show announces it'll be holding auditions in Los Angeles, Skye wastes no time in signing up. She knows she's at a disadvantage because she's fat -- a negative quality in the entertainment business and in Korean beauty standards -- but hopes her talent, hard work, and positive outlook will see her through to the finals. When she enters the competition, she meets friends and foes. She's especially intrigued by handsome model and Instagram sensation Henry Cho and wonders if he's as stuck up as people say he is. Her mom strongly disapproves of Shin's desire to be a performer and constantly belittles her looks. Skye keeps her bisexuality from her mom because she can't handle any more criticism and tension at home. Will Skye's journey through the high-pressure competition reinforce her positive self-image or tear it apart?
Is it any good?
This cute, breezy, feel-good romantic comedy, is big on wish fulfillment while tackling important topics of body positivity, sexual orientation, and parental pressure. Skye's an easy character to cheer for. She's pragmatic, positive, and honest, even with the negativity thrown at her by her mom, people in the contest, and people who bully her online. I'll Be the One highlights how difficult life can be for fat girls, especially those in entertainment. Even with Skye's upbeat outlook, we see the negative thoughts creep in when years of cruel comments take their toll on her. Author Lyla Lee touches on the line between tough love and emotional abuse. Skye's mom is terrible to her, but Skye rationalizes it as a cultural norm for Asian parents, and at one point wonders, "Is all of that 'tough love' abusive? What distinguishes tough-love parenting from abuse?" She doesn't completely figure it out but makes her peace with how to deal with her mom, showing immense emotional maturity.
Even though the story's messages are interesting, much of the dialogue is stiff and unrealistic, with Lee putting adult "message" phrasing into the mouths of teen characters. But that aside, this is a fun, thought-provoking read for fans of K-pop and coming-of-age stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how harshly critical Skye's mom is in I'll Be the One. Her mom says she's doing it to protect Skye. Skye thinks it's because her mom is embarrassed by her and doesn't support her dreams. Should parents be brutally honest with their kids? Or is there a way parents can voice concern while still supporting and encouraging their kids?
How do you feel about body positivity? Should anyone really care what someone else weighs or looks like? Why do you think some people are so awful to others who are heavier than they are?
How do you feel about social media fame? Is it pointless? Can it cause problems for people? Why do many people seek it out?
- Author: Lyla Lee
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: June 16, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 17, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance and Asian stories
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