In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!
Years and years ago, I loved K-Pop. I remember having to explain to my friends that, yes! I can enjoy music that isn’t in English! and listening to Girls Generation, Super Junior, Shinee, EXO, and 2NE1. One of my fondest memories in Biology was sitting with my friends in the back learning about DNA, and our teacher talking about base pairing rules. Pointing to the board, she said, “if there was C, C, C, C, then it’ll pair with G[ee], G[ee], G[ee], G[ee]”, which made us collapse into a fit of giggles.
Although today’s book recommendation title is super cheesy (sorry, I love cheese!) and is obviously about one of their biggest songs – because, of course I love their most famous song! – I chose Dynamite as my inspiration for the title because this was the song my friends and I bonded over (where they proceeded to endearingly educate me on who each member was, followed by a pop quiz). So this song is special to me!
Coming up the title for this book recommendation post took me longer than writing the whole post together, but wow, it was fun and nostalgic. (I’m sorry if I’m showing my age here) but other titles that I came up with were: “Into the New World (of K-Pop)”, “K-Pop Books Like No Other” (I made my dad buy me all of Super Junior’s albums when he went overseas where their albums were available!), and “What is Love? K-Pop Books that Show You What Love Means”.
I love that K-Pop brings people together and how the music is so joyous and fun. Anyway, enough ramble. I’m so excited to share with you all some awesome books about K-Pop that I loved and definitely made me revisit some of my favourite songs (which I’ll share at the bottom of this post!) and made my heart sing.
XOXO by Axie Oh
Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.
Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.
When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.
Gosh, this book just made my heart soar (and isn’t the cover so beautiful?). XOXO is such a wonderful, fluffy, and fun book that takes you on a journey to Seoul. It’s a story filled with romance, music, and passion, and I loved reading this.
- The story centers on a forbidden romance – and there’s a karaoke competition meet-cute! As we all know, idols are often forbidden from dating, so the story explores how Jenny and Jaewoo navigate their romance while also keeping it a secret.
- There are some really sweet moments – the friendships in this story are amazing and Jenny’s growth across the story is so satisfying and wonderful – but there are some tough moments too, such as Jenny’s tenuous relationship with her mother.
- This story is such a wholesome love letter to K-Pop and the hard work that goes into becoming and being an idol, the things that inspire passion in us, and music.
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
If you loved The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon but yearned for something similar, then you’ll find that in Somewhere Only We Know, a wonderful all-in-one-night romance set in the bustling streets of Hong Kong.
- The story follows a K-Pop idol and a teen moonlighting as a paparazzi, and their incredible and life-changing adventure across Hong Kong, where both are running away from truths about themselves.
- Although the story takes place all in one day, the character developments and how the romance grows and develops across the story are wonderful and so satisfying.
- At the very heart of this book, Somewhere Only We Know is about following your heart, pursuing your passions despite all expectations, and finding and being who you really are.
I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee
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’ll Be The One is a joyous and celebratory piece that centers a young, bisexual, and fat aspiring K-Pop idol while also tackling the anti-fatness rampant in the K-pop industry.
- I love that the story centers on a fat and bisexual Korean teen who does not apologise for who she is – she knows that she has the ability to make it as a K-pop star alongside – not despite of – her weight. Skye is fat, proud, and awesome.
- The story does challenge anti-fatness, not just within the K-Pop industry, but also within families and how anti-fat beliefs and thoughts can seep into how people perceive themselves.
- The story also features a lovely and uncomplicated romance – and the love interest is adorable and so sweet.
K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee
Candace Park knows a lot about playing a role. For most of her life, she’s been playing the role of the quiet Korean girl who takes all AP classes and plays a classical instrument, keeping her dreams of stardom-and her obsession with SLK, K-pop’s top boyband-to herself. She doesn’t see how a regular girl like her could possibly become one of those K-pop goddesses she sees on YouTube. Even though she can sing. Like, really sing.
So when Candace secretly enters a global audition held by SLK’s music label, the last thing she expects is to actually get a coveted spot in their trainee program. And convincing her strict parents to let her to go is all but impossible … although it’s nothing compared to what comes next.
Under the strict supervision of her instructors at the label’s headquarters in Seoul, Candace must perfect her performance skills to within an inch of her life, learn to speak Korean fluently, and navigate the complex hierarchies of her fellow trainees, all while following the strict rules of the industry. Rule number one? NO DATING, which becomes impossible to follow when she meets a dreamy boy trainee. And in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.
If she doesn’t have what it takes to become a perfect, hair-flipping K-pop idol, what will that mean for her family, who have sacrificed everything to give her the chance? And is a spot in the most hyped K-pop girl group of all time really worth risking her friendships, her future, and everything she believes in?
Perhaps you’re looking for a story about the life of aspiring K-Pop idols? K-Pop Confidential fills that want perfectly. The story feels like a love-letter to K-Pop and the idols who work so hard to make it, but also candidly exploration of the K-Pop industry.
- The book offers insight – at times with levity, at times serious – to the K-Pop industry, such as emphasis and fixation on body image and appearance, the rules about dating, and the strict regiments that the trainees go through.
- The storytelling balances humour – some parts really made me laugh out loud! – with some serious moments. But, it’s all wrapped together with Candace’s satisfying character growth, as well as the shenanigans and friendships along the way.
- At its heart, K-Pop Confidential highlights the intense hard work and talent that trainees and idols undergo to be successful in the industry.
Made in Korea by Sarah Suk
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
While Made in Korea is not about K-Pop idols per se, the story is about two competing teen business owners – one who sells K-beauty products, the other K-Pop merchandise. I absolutely had to include this, and I can almost guarantee that you will love this book as much as I did.
- Made in Korea has a rivals-to-friends-to-lovers romance, and it is so soft, vulnerable, and lovely! The tension between them is fantastic and so delicious.
- The story offers plenty of fluff balanced well with emotional depth. I loved how the story explores identity, complex family dynamics, and the unfortunate costs of pursuing your dreams.
- Seeing two teen entrepreneurs battle it out – K-beauty vs K-pop! – was so much fun – and with hints of romance getting in the way of their competition? So delightful.
Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho
Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing – she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged.
So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together. But that was seven year ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love.
Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?
Once Upon a K-Prom is not out yet, but I absolutely had to include this so that all of you can keep this on your radar. Coming Winter 2022, Once Upon a K-Prom sounds like an incredible childhood-friends-to-lovers romance. I can’t wait for this!
CW’s Favourite K-Pop Songs from Ages Ago
Once again, I am showing my age with these songs, but I LOVED these songs years ago. I listened to them when writing this post and had so much fun revisiting my favourites – I hope you enjoy them too. 🥰
- SUPERMAN by Super Junior (Spotify | Youtube)
- 너 같은 사람 또 없어 (No Other) by Super Junior (Spotify | Youtube)
- 니가 좋은 이유 (Why I Like You) by Super Junior (Spotify | Youtube)
- What is Love by Exo (Spotify | Youtube)
- LUCIFER by SHINee (Spotify | Youtube)
- Into the New World by SNSD (Spotify | Youtube)
- Star Star Star by SNSD (Spotify | Youtube)
- Forever by SNSD (Spotify | Youtube)
- Abracadabra by Brown Eyed Girls (Spotify | Youtube)
- Haru Haru by BIGBANG (Spotify | Youtube)
- My Heaven by BIGBANG (Spotify | Youtube)