Book Review (ARC): Shine by Jessica Jung

Alexa, play “Into the New World” by Girl’s Generation. Let me begin this review by stating that Girl’s Generation (also known as SNSD or Sonyeo Sidae) was the first K-Pop group that I ever loved. I started listening to their music in 2009 when I was still in primary school, and when Jessica left the group in 2014, I was stunned. 

While Shine is technically a fictional story, there’s no doubt that the characters and events are largely inspired by Jessica’s life. If this book were written by anyone else other than Jessica, I don’t think it would have been as well-received or as entertaining of a read simply because Jessica’s background offers an inside look into the Korean music industry.

SHINE by Jessica Jung

PUBLISHED BY Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) on September 29th 2020

GENRES: Contemporary

PAGES: 352


A Korean American teen is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Content/Trigger Warnings: bullying, dieting, fatphobia, calorie-counting, body-shaming, drugging, emotional manipulation

Shine follows Rachel Kim, a 17-year-old Korean American trainee under Seoul’s largest K-Pop label, DB Entertainment. Just from the synopsis, you can find immediate parallels between Rachel and Jessica who was one of the Korean American members of Girl’s Generation under SM entertainment.

I went into this book with fairly low expectations mainly because I’m always wary of books written by celebrities, but the discussions of K-Pop’s darker side were really interesting to read, mainly because I’m a K-Pop fan myself but also because I was trying to find ties between Rachel’s life and Jessica’s. 

Through Rachel, we’re exposed to the unforgiving life of a K-pop trainee from strict diet expectations where gaining 1kg could have you publicly shamed, competition among trainees looking to debut, sponsorships AKA sexual relations between trainees and company executives, double standards between female and male idols, and more. 

The writing itself was very easy to read which I wasn’t too surprised by since the book had been edited by Kat Cho, author of Wicked Fox. However, I will admit that this is a very frustrating book from the immense girl-on-girl hate and bullying with Mina, another trainee, and whirlwind romance with Jason, Rachel’s love-interest.

It’s easy to forget how K-Pop artists’ images, music, everything?? are carefully curated by the label executives, and this book ~shines~ a light on how toxic the environment can be. With Mina, I kept speculating whether Jessica was bullied like Rachel, similar to how Mina in AOA was bullied by the leader Jimin. 

The romance between Rachel and Jason wasn’t my favorite mainly because he was such an irresponsible and flakey love interest to read about but that was a major plot point to show the double standards between expectations of male idols in the industry to their female counterparts. 

Truthfully, I mainly picked up this book to see whether Jessica revealed anything interesting about her experience (and eventual departure) from Girl’s Generation, and Rachel’s story revealed the brutal nature of achieving success in the industry. There are several scenes in this book that feel very over-the-top, but as a whole, this was an entertaining read that I would recommend to other K-Pop fans.

Have you read Shine?

What were your thoughts?

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10 thoughts on “Book Review (ARC): Shine by Jessica Jung

    1. ooo i’m so curious to know your thoughts on this book as someone who isn’t a kpop fan because it’ll be a completely different experience than mine! can’t wait~


  1. I can often be reluctant to pick up books by celebrities too but they can also look into their industries which is why I think they can be interesting to pick up at times as well. I’m glad it was able to look into some darker sides of the kpop industry and had some discussions about it. It is a shame it had girl on girl hate and that you didn’t enjoy the romance. I’m glad it was still an entertaining read for you, great review as always !!


    1. Thank you so much for reading, Sophie! It was definitely such an interesting, and I’m glad I picked it up. I’m so excited to know your thoughts if you do end up reading it~


  2. This was a wonderful review!! I’ve only started listening to KPop quite recently (around 4 years ago or something), and truthfully, I’m not the best at keeping up with new groups, I mainly listen to same groups and songs all the time, but I read I’ll Be The One and I really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about the industry! Since Shine was written by an ex-member of a KPop girl group, I’m pretty sure it can get quite heavy on the dark side too )):


  3. Tiifany, I’m so behind on blog posts rn so apologies for this late comment. But I LOVED this review so so so much!! I haven’t read this one and I haven’t gotten into k-pop yet (I say yet because it’s bound to happen at some point) but it sounds so interesting, even if you didn’t adore it. Love you lots friend <3<3


    1. Aww there’s no such thing as too late! It’s definitely such an interesting read from an insider’s perspective. ❤


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