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 years 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?
I was provided a review copy by the publisher in an exchange for an honest review.
Readers who love stories that have K-Pop and are about K-Pop stars: Once Upon a K-Prom is a must-read for you. The story follows Korean-American teen Elena, who would rather spend her money saving the local community centre than going to something as silly as a prom. One day, her childhood sweetheart Robbie appears at her door, following up on his promise that he made to her as children – except she hasn’t seen Robbie since they were ten years old and now he’s one of the hottest K-Pop stars in the world.
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.
Eleven-year-old Danny’s life is turned upside down when his Chinese grandmother comes to live with his family in England. Things get worse when Danny finds out he’ll have to share his room with her, and she took the top bunk!
At first, Danny is frustrated that he can’t communicate with her because she doesn’t speak English—and because he’s on the verge of failing math and Nai Nai was actually a math champion back in the day. It just feels like he and his grandmother have nothing in common. His parents insist that Danny help out, so when he’s left to look after Nai Nai, he leaves her at the bingo hall for the day to get her off his back. But he soon discovers that not everyone there is as welcoming as he expected . . .
Through the universal languages of math and art, Danny realizes he has more in common with his Nai Nai than he first thought.
One of my favourite things about middle-grade stories is how they explore the close relationships that we have with people, especially with our friends and family. Siblings are different now, friendships are changing, and even the character themselves are growing up too. So, what about a story about a young Chinese-British boy who has to suddenly become roommates with a grandmother he’s never met before and that he doesn’t understand?
Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart.
Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.
Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.
I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me more drawn to reading novels in verse. Perhaps it’s the contemplative and expressive autumn feels, or the release of Red (Taylor’s version), but whatever it is, I am so glad that it led me to pick up Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. It is a middle grade novel in verse, and features our protagonist, Reha, who is an Indian-American girl who is a second generation immigrant living in the Midwest of the USA. When the book opens, her main emotional conflict is that she is torn between the community she has at school, where she sometimes feels “too Indian”, being one of the only Indian-American students, and home, where she sometimes feels “too American”. The author commented that this book draws directly on her personal experience as a teen growing up in the 1980s.
Twelve-year-old Reyna Cheng is the up-and-coming junior amateur Dayhold gamer, competing in a VR battle royale against AI monsters and human players alike. But despite Reyna’s rising popularity and skills, no one know who she is. Gaming is still a boy’s club and to protect herself against trolls, she games as the mysterious TheRuiNar.
When Reyna qualifies for the Dayhold Junior Tournament sponsored by her favorite team, she knows she’s got what it takes to win the championship title and the $10,000 prize.
But when she’s blackmailed and threatened to be doxed, having her personal identity revealed, by an anonymous troll, Reyna will have to deal with a toxic gaming community, family complications, and the increasing pressure to win as the tournament gets underway.
I have been a gamer for almost 20 years – so naturally, gaming has a very special place in my heart. Starting with single-player RPGs, then pouring way too many of my teen years into MMORPGs, to online Team Deathmatches, and then, later, a return to action RPGs, which I now play every day. I have been a gamer for almost all of my life, and as a consequence I have craved for good books about gaming. Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao is such a book. Set in the distant future, not only does Last Gamer Standing have an accurate portrayal of gaming where gaming isn’t framed as a context or setting, gaming is at the very core of its story– one that actually understands gaming and gamers.