Title: Frankly in Love
Author: David Yoon
Series: Frankly in Love #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Narrator: Raymond J. Lee
Length: ~10 hours (432 pages)
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Library (Libby app)
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
I really wanted to love this book. I highly anticipated this release because I’ve enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s books, but I should not have placed my expectations for her writing on him. I almost DNF this book, and the only reason I finished it is because my next audiobook was on hold.
My biggest issue was that it felt like two different stories were happening that did not blend together well. Some parts of this book were so great, but others not so much.
I’ll start with the good. There were important discussions about race, identity, and family that were very deep and well-written. I think this idea could have worked as a short story or essay about the Korean-American experience, because the family dynamics in this book were so insightful, but as a whole the book did not come together.
Now for the bad. THE ROMANCE. This book has “love” in the title, but the romance was just not good. This book featured several YA romance tropes (instalove, fake dating, cheating), none of them well-executed. The cheating didn’t even bother me that much because the relationship never felt real to me in the first place. In general, the interactions between Frank and other teenagers felt awkward and inauthentic.
David Yoon knows how to write about Korean-Americans, but he does not know how to write believable teenage characters. YA is not the right fit for him to tell his story. I might consider reading something from him in the future in a different genre or platform, but I will not be reading the sequel to Frankly in Love.