Made in Korea
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sarah Suk's Made in Korea is a young adult romance novel starring Korean American leads. The book jumps back and forth between Valerie Kwon's and Wes Jung's first-person point of view. Mainly set in their Crescent Brook High School, the two seniors find themselves enemies and rival student-business owners. But when Wes starts taking Valerie's customers, threatening her end-of-the-year goal, Valerie knows she must step up her game. There's some light integration of Korean culture and family life, but this story mainly steers clear of any identity, diversity, or difference talk. Very little sexual content besides some romantic kissing and lots of talk of who is "hot." Teens drink beer freely at a house party and play a few drinking games. One teen becomes visibly drunk and cries (comically). A few instances of strong language include one instance of "f---ing," and many instances of "s--t."
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What's the Story?
In MADE IN KOREA, Valerie Kwon is a senior at Crescent Brook High School and runs the school's best and most profitable student-business, V&C's K-Beauty. Selling hard to find beauty products and cosmetics, Valerie hopes to make enough to take her grandmother on a trip to Paris before it's too late. But new kid, Wes Jung, arrives one day, sets up his own business, and starts taking Valerie's customers. Nevermind that he's super cute and that everyone at school is talking about him and his amazing merchandise. If he wants Valerie as an enemy, he has no idea what he's up against.
Is It Any Good?
There's a lot to like about this high school romantic teen drama. In Made in Korea, the main characters are Asian American, likable, and each has a distinct voice. The casual integration of Korean culture, family life, and traditions is lightly applied here, but mainly this story is a romance that happens to be about two Asian American teens. And because both leads are written in first-person, it's easy for readers to get behind each of them, feel their internal struggles, and hope they end up together. It's also refreshing to continue to see Asian American male romantic leads, as Asian Americans know all too well. Further, Wes is shy, awkward, and not as confident as his appearance might suggest.
The main problem with Made in Korea, unfortunately, is that it's entirely predictable, and from the very start. Everything is executed well and charmingly, the pacing is solid, characters are drawn fully, and the stakes are clear from the beginning. But there aren't any surprises and nothing comes that isn't expected.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about romance in young adult novels. Did you feel the romance was genuine in Made in Korea? Why or why not?
In the beginning, why do you think Wes let things get to where they got before explaining himself? What would you have done if you were Wes in that situation?
Whose reasons for making money, Valerie's or Wes' is the most admirable? Why?
- Author: Sarah Suk
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 18, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 15, 2021
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