My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
Thank you, Penguin Random House, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Like Frank, I’ve spent a lot of time struggling to find my place as a hybrid being in a world that seems to insist on hard categories. — David Yoon
I was only one of the thousands of readers who were excited to read this book. After enjoying Wicked Fox earlier this year, I yearned to consume another Korea-inspired story. For the most part, I had a pleasant reading experience. I dove into the novel knowing that there would be a love triangle, so the trope didn’t make my eyes roll as it usually did. However, I frankly wasn’t in love with Frank.
Frankly in Love is primarily a coming-of-age story, the journey of a Korean-American boy trying to solidify his identity. Frank’s native Korean parents have much control over his life, including his education, career, and romantic interests. They want him to join the Ivy League, become an affluent yuppie, and marry someone within their exclusive circle of immigrants. So when Frank becomes infatuated with a White girl named Brit, he thinks of a cunning way to keep their relationship a secret: fake-dating Joy, the Korean daughter of his parents’ “best friends.” Can you guess whom he ends up with?
I thoroughly enjoyed the racial discourse in this debut. Frank had many sentiments regarding Asian stereotypes, although ironically, his parents were racists (they even disowned their daughter for marrying a Black man). He hated their prejudiced remarks about Blacks, Mexicans, and the Chinese. As a result, Frank and his old folks had lots of absurd arguments. Frank’s most remarkable observation was that some Koreans didn’t consider themselves Asian since they supposedly had a unique ancestry.
This idea is very relevant today, especially in the K-pop industry. One White fan of BTS criticized me for not liking the same boy group, saying that my Filipino blood made me too uncultured to appreciate BTS. Koreans and Filipinos are both Asians, for goodness’s sake. When discrimination like this happens, I feel like K-pop shouldn’t be marketed outside of Asia.
Frank’s upbringing was weird yet fascinating. Though he grew up in a Korean home, he failed to be fluent in the language. English was Frank’s primary means of communication, and this caused a rift between him and his parents. One of his dilemmas was that he barely knew anything about them: their history, passions, and more. According to Frank, children who have parents who speak the same language are very fortunate. Considering his linguistic plight, I guess that’s a valid statement. I don’t want to be in Frank’s shoes and feel so alienated from my loved ones.
I appreciated that Frank had a diverse circle of friends. All of them were hardcore nerds and overachievers. However, they had different nationalities: Korean, American, Filipino, etc. Among Frank’s buddies, Q was undeniably the best. He laughed when Frank laughed and cried when Frank cried; their emotions were nearly in sync. Something made me question Q’s intentions, but I did my best to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Regardless of his social strengths, Frank wasn’t always loveable. His romantic relationships were quite shallow, so I couldn’t see the sparks between him and Brit/Joy. Also, I strongly disliked how Frank used Brit. When she discovered his deception, all he did was apologize. Brit was extraordinarily open and kind, so she didn’t deserve to be treated like she was disposable. As for Joy, she “fell in love” with Frank simply because he had a similar sense of humor. She gave up on her Chinese boyfriend, so I wasn’t surprised when she did the same thing to Frank.
Ultimately, Frankly in Love deserves 3.75 stars because of its educational content. You should read it if you want to read an #OwnVoices (authentic) book that explores the good and bad aspects of Korean culture. But if you’re only looking for a sweet and innocent love story, this book might not be for you.