As K-POP multi stans with a love of reading, it’s no surprise that our shelves have a good number of K-POP-inspired novels on them. One of the most popular and exciting stories inspired by the Korean music industry is Stephan Lee’s K-POP Confidential. The novel follows Korean American high-school student Candace Lee as she begrudgingly auditions for a major K-POP company before passing and finding herself in Seoul working towards debuting under S.A.Y Entertainment in their new girl group.
We were hooked with every single page as we experienced the rollercoaster of a ride of Candace’s journey from an outcast school girl to a potential future idol. The ending gave us whiplash with the plot twist, which left us manifesting the second book ASAP. This year Stephan is blessing us with its sequel K-POP Revolution, and we were very lucky to be given an advanced copy to read. Here’s what we thought about the sequel…
Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read K-POP Confidential, make sure you get your hands on a copy, fall in love with the story then meet us back here for the review.
Content warning: This book has common themes that revolve around the K-POP industry and discuss topics such as eating disorders, fatphobia, body shaming, sexism, misogyny, mental health challenges, cussing, and verbal abuse. The Honey POP encourages mindful reading and always checking the author’s website for any additional content warnings.
Summary: She thought that debuting in a K-POP band was the finish line, but it was only the beginning. Because now it’s not only Candace’s company judging her―it’s the entire world. How will she find the courage to stand by her beliefs, even when powerful forces are trying to shame and silence her…
In the sequel to K-POP Confidential, Candace is a Rookie idol. Her life is suddenly filled with the fans, cameras, and glamor of stardom: She and her boyfriend, YoungBae, are a K-POP power couple; she’s a walking icon at Brandt Foreign School; and her new girl group, known simply as THE GIRLS, is poised to break records across the industry. With her status as the industry’s K-POP Warrior, she has all the clout at her disposal to make waves. Right?
Her label, S.A.Y., promises to help make sweeping changes for the industry to become a more humane and compassionate place for artists. But what will happen when the road to a record-breaking debut isn’t as smooth as they’d planned? When a rival girl group emerges to steal the spotlight, carrying the message of change better than Candace ever could, she’ll have to decide what it’ll cost her and her bandmates to stand up for their beliefs. And as the world turns against her, with online bullies scrutinizing her every word, there’s only so much that one person can take.
From the top of the world to the brink of disaster, Candace is going to have to figure out why the world is out to get her. And she’s not going to be able to do it alone.
How far does one girl need to be pushed to start a K-POP Revolution?
K-POP Revolution delves straight into the aftermath of the turmoil we were left in following the debut of S.A.Y Entertainment’s brand new girl group. Having made such a bold and controversial statement on the live TV announcement, Candace has blown up her career, gained a huge following of K-POP fans who are proud of her speaking out, and has to await whatever S.A.Y has in store for her as a result of her actions. Debut or no debut, her life is now in the spotlight, and things will never be the same again. From her dating life under the microscope to fighting for what’s right and everyone having an opinion on her, Candace’s mission to change the industry for the better is far from over, and the worst is yet to come.
Much like the first book, K-POP Revolution is an exhilarating read which is a real page-turner. There’s a great balance of realism and entertainment values that remind you that events throughout the story aren’t too far from reality but aren’t necessarily a retelling of any specific event. K-POP is continuing to grow in global success and popularity, with many people seeing the content we receive and thinking idols have perfect lives that we should strive for when in actual fact, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
K-POP Revolution is a solid reminder that both the industry and the pressure of any sort of spotlight are tough, and dreams come at a price that you really need to consider if you want to pay. Lee also doesn’t shy away from the issues that the entertainment industry has that still need a lot of work on. Often overworking and unrealistic expectations are mistaken as hard work and dedication, and it takes someone like Candace, who comes from a different walk of life, to unwrap the issues and tackle them.
The characters of K-POP Revolution are truly charming with standout personalities who can easily remind you of a number of idols you’re a fan of (and even give face claim to!) and will have you emotionally attached to them pretty quickly (maybe even have yet another fictional character to crush on. Sigh. Such is life.) Familiar faces from the first book who only had a small part of the story take to the spotlight in this book with characters like BowHee and ShiHong taking a more prominent place in the storyline, and we meet new characters who bring another level of quality to the story.
We also get to learn more about WooWee and One.J as we discover their true personalities hiding behind their public personas. Both characters are a great reminder that we don’t truly know the idols we stan but the version of themselves they present to us. Whether they are just a more flawed human version of who we know or someone completely different, Lee reminds us that even the most perfect-looking celebrity is, in fact, human, and there is nothing natural about the ideology of perfectionism.
With a look at ugly truths about the industry comes hope and determination in K-POP Revolution. It’s no secret from the title given that there’s rebellion, protest, and fight for change that are prominent themes in the storyline as Candace challenges problematic practices that are rooted in the tradition of the K-entertainment world. There’s a lot of conflict between Candace and her supporters against S.A.Y Entertainment and anyone who benefits from old traditions but with determination and her heart in the right place, our protagonist has impact and the ability to inspire, and proves that change for good is worth fighting for.
This concept isn’t new, and the demand for equality and respect in the music industry around the world is something that has been demanded for years, but while there has been a progression, the journey is still far from over. Through both books, Stephan Lee imagines just how things may look if we tackled the flaws we’re still met with, and honestly? It looks amazing.
Stepping aside from the more serious topics, the focus of friendship, romance, and personal growth are also really enjoyable to read. From rooting for Candace’s relationship to flourish to learning more about Korean culture as she explores that side of her heritage, we really love the blend of our interest in K-POP and what makes a book so good you’re hesitant to put it down. Plus, there’s a good dolloping of drama and unpredictability to keep you curious.
K-POP Revolution is an entertaining read that is not that far from the real world. It reminds us of the hard work and dedication idols and trainees put into achieving their dreams by removing the beauty filter off of their lives. It takes us behind the scenes of reality as it highlights the good and the bad, reminding us that idols are also human and showing us that there is room to alter and improve issues that won’t take away value from the power and influence being in the spotlight has.
With more inclusion, diversity, and a strong balance of hard work and prioritizing wellbeing, K-POP will have even more potential to continue breaking into the mainstream and revolutionizing music to become more than just a western majority that has the potential to earn global success. The fact we are able to get up-close-and-personal to the world that idols and trainees live in without actually invading a real person’s privacy allows us to briefly step out of the fantasies we often create in our heads to view things from another perspective is fascinating and something we don’t always have the opportunity to think about.
There’s a good balance of hard-hitting revelations and entertainment value with a transfixing plot and charismatic characters as well as plenty of references to the real world of K-POP (look out for name drops of your faves!) to give it that extra level of realism. Though the story can sometimes be intense, overall, we truly enjoyed it. We were angry at the antagonists, besotted with the romance, and constantly rooting for Candace and the deuteragonists. Our emotions were high by the end of the book, and though the future of this universe is uncertain, we’d welcome a third book or spin-offs in a heartbeat (a story about YoungBae’s journey would be *chef kiss*.) It’s gonna take us a while to leave this world behind, and we’ll always have a special place for it in our hearts.
K-POP Revolution is out on April 5th and is available for pre-order.
Will you be reading K-POP Revolution? Who is your favorite character from K-POP Confidential? Let us know down in the comments below or by tweeting us @TheHoneyPOP!
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Creative Director of The Honey POP. Disney and pop culture enthusiast.