Rating: 4 / 5
I had the awesome opportunity to attend an event at The Ripped Bodice in Santa Monica in September, “David Yoon and Nicola Yoon In Conversation” to celebrate the publication of David Yoon’s FRANKLY IN LOVE. It was such a fun event and I got to meet some fellow Southern California bookstagrammers while I was there which made it a great night all around. I of course had to pick up a copy of FRANKLY IN LOVE while I was there and jump in on a buddy read of the book with some friends too!
FRANKLY IN LOVE follows Frank Li, a high school senior who feels like he is being torn between worlds, living life as a “limbo” along with his fellow Korean-American kids born to Korean immigrants. Frank’s parents are strict, they insist that he will get good grades, make something of himself and date only Korean girls. Unfortunately Frank’s new girl seems to be ideal aside from the fact that she’s white. Frank and his fellow “limbo” Joy devise a plan so that they can keep dating their less than ideal partners, they’ll just pretend to date each other which will thrill their parents and give them all the freedom they need to do as they want.
I really enjoyed FRANKLY IN LOVE, though I will say it isn’t what I initially expected it to be. I picked this one up expecting a fun and a light read. It was that in parts, I really liked David Yoon’s humor that came through in the narrative. He has a way of telling things like they are that I really appreciated. At the same time this book was incredibly serious and at times heavy. The story doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to some of the racism Frank sees in his community’s “Korean only” mentality. Frank’s sister has been ostracized for marrying a non-Korean which puts a strain on the whole family.
The plot took some predictable turns for me, fake dating scenarios only seem to head in one direction, but I was pleasantly surprised that some of the twists in the story were not ones that I saw coming. This book looks a lot at friendship and community. I loved the relationship between Frank and his best friend. Frank’s relationship with his absent sister was great as well. The regular convening of Frank’s family with the rest of the Korean-American group they have formed is very interesting. On the one hand they have developed this bond together to keep in touch with their culture, but at a deeper level they are all very different. This book shows well that the immigrant experience is very different from one person to the next, dealing with different backgrounds, financial situations, etc.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend you check it out! It was an amazing debut novel and I’m excited to see what David Yoon does next!