Summary: Made in Korea
Made in Korea is Sarah Suk’s debut YA novel. Valerie Kwon is a business-savvy Korean-American teen who runs V&C K-Beauty with her cousin, Charlie, out of her high school locker. She’s saving up so that she can take her halmeoni to Paris on a memorable vacation.
Valerie is misunderstood by her mother because she’s not as dutiful, math/science smart or organized as her older sister. Valerie’s dreams face a huge obstacle when a new, good looking Korean-American student Wes Jung unwittingly starts his own competing K-beauty business in their school.
Wes has his own reasons for needing the extra cash. He really wants to study music but his dad thinks music should only be a hobby. Wes also needs to fix his saxophone, so when he realizes that students would willingly pay for branded lip balms and face masks, he is enticed into starting a business. As the two rivals collide, they learn that they have more in common than they thought.
I loved this story so much! I didn’t want to put it down even for one second. Valerie and Wes are both lovable characters, although Valerie is a bit prickly and finds it hard to engage with her emotions. I loved that the story is written from both their points of view, so you get to hear both of their thoughts and enjoy a well-rounded story.
Valerie’s relationship with her halmeoni was endearing and I loved the way halmeoni’s narrative arc was developed. Charlie and Valerie also have a sweet relationship and I loved seeing how Valerie’s eyes are opened to Charlie’s (and other humans’) value besides just the business. As a business owner (although I sell services, not physical products) I loved the business aspect of this story: how Valerie brainstormed products, did social media marketing, and even the dubious way she tries to outsmart her competition.
Wes is just the sweetest! I liked him from his first appearance on the page! I love the effect he has on Valerie and also that he has his own story and challenges — and even his own circle of friends separate from Valerie. He struggles a lot with belonging and it felt great to see the nice, shy guy win.
Overall: Made in Korea
Made in Korea is a sweet, charming, and entertaining young adult enemies-to-lovers romance. With a headstrong female protagonist and an endearing male protagonist, this story packs family, romance, and coming-of-age challenges into an engaging, compulsively readable package. Fans of YA music books, stories with entrepreneurial characters, and family-oriented YA will love this story. It also has mild, infrequent profanity and would be suitable for younger YA readers.
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Thanks to Simon and Schuster for an eARC of this book via NetGalley.
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