Frankly in Love by David Yoon // Book Review

I recently received a copy of Frankly in Love to help promote the book before its release. So of course, I read it because what responsible blogger doesn’t read the book they’re promoting. Turns out, it was better than I thought it was going to be.

39847584Frank Li is looking for a girlfriend. It’s the last year of high school and Frank’s working on applying to colleges, taking the SATs, and finishing up his AP classes. He’s ready for love and who else would be a better fit than Brit Means, a girl in his Calculus class with wit and as much smarts as everyone else.

But Frank has one dark secret, his parents want him to date a Korean girl. Every month, his family gathers with other Korean families that went to school together back in Korea. Amongst them is Joy Song, a girl in Frank’s class who just so happened to be dating a Chinese guy unbeknownst to her family.

When Frank decides to date Brit, he contacts Joy and sets up a system where he and Joy can date their respective partners without their parents finding out. For all intents and purposes, it looks like Frank is dating Joy, but no parents go on the dates so they don’t know.

However, things take a turn when Joy and Frank start to have feelings for each other. Now Frank has to figure out if he really loves Brit or if he’s falling for Joy and how to manage all of this without telling his parents.

This book is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud a few times. David Yoon also has similar wit to say, the Green brothers (Hank and John). The witty one-liners and philosophies on love and life, and puns really made this book much better than just another story of a kid trying to date another kid.

It’s also filled with heart. I love how Frank is nerdy and talks about gaming and structures his sentences in weird ways. I love how he and his best friend Q play Dungeons and Dragons and that’s a fulfilling weekend. I love how intelligent Joy and Brit are and how their intelligence makes them more attractive to Frank. I think there are a lot of parts of this book that many folks will find funny and insightful. All of this and ton of representation? Count me in.

Let’s talk about themes

Ok, first off, the gatherings. This part freaked me out a little because my family would go to gatherings like this when I was a kid. My father’s high school friends who moved to the States would throw big barbecues in the summer and we would all get together, play games, eat some really amazing food, and just hang out. I remember us wearing matching t-shirts and meeting people our age and hanging out in a massive park somewhere. I thought my family was the only ones who did this, but I guess many Korean families try to keep the bonds of their friendships together even in America. I was shocked to hear this family do the same thing.

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The second part I found surprising is that Frank’s parents were okay with him dating. When I was growing up, my main focus was always school. No dating for Simone because she’s gotta make sure to get into the best college at the time. But when it came down to dating in the future, the only prospects my family saw were Korean ones. Sadly, I already came to the conclusion that I was way too Americanized to be a Korean dude’s wife, so that ship sailed and my parents got over it. They probably also got over it because they realized they can’t control anything that happens in my life.

Third theme: racism. I wouldn’t say that this book is inherently racist, but there is a lot of racism used to explain the ethnocentric behavior of Frank’s family and friends. If you’re not aware, Asian people can be pretty racist and not only against other races, but also within the Asian community. I loved that David Yoon brought this up because I’ve grown up with this as well. Granted, nothing stuck and I love all races and people from Asian countries, but I don’t think it’s well known that Asian people can be really racist against themselves. I think it’s because we come from a country that’s been governed by different Asian countries in the past and that kind of merciless history can really make you think differently about them.

Fourth theme: fitting in. Frank describes the folks that live between two cultures as “Limbos” and I resonate so hard with this. It reminds me of all the times I grew up thinking “am I American or am I Korean?” There was a moment in my childhood where I went to two different churches. One was the American church and the other was the Korean church. My mom asked me and my sister to decide which church to attend because we couldn’t go to both every Sunday. I thought the American church because at least I can understand what the sermons were saying, but then I also thought the Korean church because I’ll meet more peers who live the same life as me. It’s a constant push and pull. I feel worthless as a Korean if I don’t know the new thing coming out of there or when people ask me about this Korean thing or that Korean thing. And many people in the US make an effort to emphasize the fact that I am Korean. Sadly, I wish I can figure this out, but I think it’ll be something that plagues me my entire life.


Finally, the way David Yoon wrapped up the story was interesting. I loved that in a state of family crisis, his parents were able to see that life is too short to be biased against people. They finally accept that race doesn’t count for anything and that egos need to be smoldered to grow. I don’t want to say more than this because I don’t want to spoil it.

I will say the only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the pacing. While witty and still hilarious, I did find that the ending dragged out a bit longer than I expected. I don’t think it really hurts the story, but it’s just something to keep in mind if you’re going into the book and noticed the same thing.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Teen for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

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