Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 16, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 336 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else. When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho. But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
I’m not a parent (yet), but I’ll Be the One is EXACTLY the type of book I hope my future child reads someday. It’s so full of body positivity, confidence, vulnerability, friendships and family dynamics that I think any reader can draw positivity and courage from. Following teen Skye Shin as she auditions for a K-Pop talent search show, I’ll Be the One was a refreshing addition to the YA contemporary genre and definitely my favorite K-Pop focused book to date!
As mentioned in the synopsis, a significant part of Skye’s identity is her confidence, and I love how this comes through the narrative in multiple ways. Skye has continually struggled with others’ perceptions about her body and weight, and so much of the story revolves around her determination to show everyone how wrong they are about their preconceived notions surrounding what she can and can’t do because of her appearance. Yet this confidence and resilience is hard won, and I appreciated how Skye, while brave and bold in so many instances (she tells off folks both in her family and on tv for being fatphobic) she’s also vulnerable in many too, and not immune to the exhaustion and sadness that comes along with being a role model and having to constantly prove herself to others. The fact that Skye can sing, dance, empower and cry all in the same book is truly realistic and inspiring.
I loved the reality tv show dynamic present in the novel. It was informative for those who may be new to K-Pop, showcasing both the wonderful things about the industry (how talented, creative and passionate those involved are) but also the areas that could still be improved (such as the focus on weight and slimness). It was a lot of fun reading about the different auditions, rehearsals, and performances that the contestants went through, and I had such a fun time looking up the different dances and songs performed and broadening my knowledge of K-Pop! (I was pretty mesmerized by some of the choreography referenced in the story!)
The family dynamics present in I’ll Be the One are also super important, as Skye has a super supportive dad who she doesn’t get to see often, and a mom who can’t see beyond her weight to her true talent. While it was often difficult and heartbreaking to read some of the scenes between Skye and her mother, I think it was also important to showcase that not everything was OK or resolved just because of Skye’s rising fame or simply because it would wrap up the story on a pleasant note. Skye’s mother obviously has a lot of personal issues to work through surrounding her own body that she’s projected on her daughter, and though we start to get glimpses of change happening I’m happy that it didn’t happen in some dramatic way- it wouldn’t have been realistic and as I believe this book is kicking off a series I am excited for the opportunity for Skye to slowly and steadily work through her issues with her mom at the pace that is right and realistic for them.
There were some really wonderful friendships portrayed in this novel and I’m glad the author chose to use the competition as a bonding moment for many of the teams rather than falling into the “mean girl” story line. Lana and Tiffany were wonderful friends to Skye (especially Lana, I would love a book just about her!) and Henry was adorable and so innocent (he’s never had a taco) while also worldly and jaded at the same time. There were some less than savory characters (and I was personally a little suspicious of one of Skye’s school friends) but the story was a great balance of real life- there’s just some people who support you and lift you up and some who don’t- or won’t- no matter how much you try to please them.
Overall: I’ll Be the One is a story full of heart that includes some wonderful representation and is just a fun and fast read. I would love a sequel set in Korea, however I am just so happy we at least have this story!