Published by Penguin Australia on September 12, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Own Voices, Contemporary
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Frank loves Joy. Joy loves Frank. At least, that's what they tell their parents . . . a brilliant, funny, quirky YA romance.
Frank Li is a high school senior living in Southern California. Frank's parents emigrated from Korea, and have pretty much one big rule for Frank - he must only date Korean girls. But he's got strong feelings for a girl in his class, Brit - and she's not Korean. His friend Joy Song is in the same boat and knows her parents will never accept her boyfriend, so they make a pact: they'll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks fake-dating is the perfect plan, but it leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love - or himself - at all.
David Yoon's debut novel is a quirky, authentic, heartbreaking romantic comedy and a refreshingly different take on race, immigrant communities, friendship and family.
You might have heard that Frankly In Love features a Korean-American teenager looking for love. And you might also have heard that Frankly in Love also features the much loved fake-dating trope. Both of these reasons is why I picked up the book. So what did I think about it?
My thoughts on Frankly in Love are quite mixed – while I did find the story enjoyable, there were some things that I wasn’t a fan of. So without further ado, here’s some thoughts I had about Frankly in Love:
Things I Liked
1. Frank’s voice
Frankly in Love was so easy to read and get into, because of Frank’s character voice. He’s geeky, awkward and quite frank and upfront with his emotions, which makes him instantly relatable. While his Korean parents show prejudice to others about the world around them, he’s not afraid to call it like it is: racism for anyone that isn’t Korean. Frank also easily shares his fears about disobeying his parents after his sister has been disowned, and about his hopes to rekindle that relationship.
2. Discussion on diaspora and being a second generation immigrant
There’s always a sense of not fitting in anywhere when your parents have emigrated to the West – you’re not American enough, and you’re also not Korean enough. This was definitely something that I related to through Frank’s perspective, not being able to speak the language and also having to work harder at everything you do to be “American”. The relationship with his parents was always going to be strained, because he can’t quite communicate with them fluently and they also have a certain amount of expectations that are placed upon him.
3. Frank’s relationship with his estranged sister, Hanna
Despite his parents disowning Hanna because she married a black man, Frank still misses her presence and texts her every now and then. I liked his connection with his sister and how he wanted her to be a part of his life, even though she lived in a different state. Having a sibling myself, there’s only a few words that need to be exchanged for them to understand what you’re going through with your parents, and I loved seeing that captured here.
4. Joy and the Limbos
The “Limbos” are the kids who hang out with one another at their Korean parents gatherings – and nowhere else because they’re not in the same friendship group at school. I loved hearing about how they related so much to one another, yet not at all, and each gathering just became awkward and fun. I also really liked Joy, who Frank ends up fake dating so they can both date their respective others without the scrutiny of their parents. She is a STEM girl who is smart and sarcastic, but also really earnest and sweet which I liked.
5. The family saga
While the premise of the book is light and fluffy, the book does take a turn towards the end and becomes heavier, focusing on Frank’s relationship with his parents. I like the messaging behind it, in appreciating your parents even though they’re not perfect.
Things I Disliked
1. Frank was a terrible friend
I really liked Q, the genius black guy who is also Frank’s best friend, but I thought Frank treated him like crap. He’s happy to hang out with Q whenever it’s convenient for him, and also even reel him into his fake dating antics (eg. using Q as an excuse for his parents). But whenever he gets caught up with one of the girls that he’s dating, he just forgets about Q and casts him to the side – and even makes him wait for hours while he’s making out with his date at the time. Towards the end of the book, Q also confides in Frank about something and Frank doesn’t give it a second thought – which just made me dislike Frank more.
2. The romance
For a book about fake dating, you would think I would like the romance a lot more than I did. But unfortunately, I couldn’t bear the way that Frank treated both of the girls that he starts dating. For starters, he started pursuing Brit Means, and all of a sudden she’s into him. But as soon as she started confessing her feelings for him, he loses interest, and starts playing around with Joy once it was convenient for him. He also cheats at one stage in the book right after saying “I love you”, and frankly it just made me want to slap him.
3. Awkward phrases
“I’m kind of a dum-dum.”
“I vigorously masturbated the space between us.” (when referring to shaking hands with someone)
“Dear lord Flying Spaghetti Monster in Pastafarian heaven.”
Joy: “He wants to take things to the next level, but he doesn’t understand.” Frank: “So, like, anal?”
Dear lord, does anyone actually speak like this?
4. Frank himself
Although I liked Frank’s voice in the book, after reflecting about my thoughts on it, a lot of the problems I had with it lay with Frank himself. Along with being a terrible friend and a jerk to girls he dates, I just found him to be rather self centered. He calls his parents racist (and even though they were at times), he doesn’t think to correct it or to speak up to them about it. Instead, he lied to them about dating Joy and doesn’t even find this to be a problem. I wish the book offered more of a learning experience for Frank, but sadly by the end of it, I didn’t really like him as a character.
For a book that started off about fake dating tropes and tackling racism inherent in one’s own family, Frankly in Love ends on a more poignant note about family. There’s a definite end to the fluff about 80% of the way through, and then it delves into the deeper topics. I felt like it dragged on a little, but after reading the rest of it, I was glad that it wasn’t just about the fluff. While Frank and his decision-making kind of made me dislike him as a character, I still really enjoyed the story and took a lot away from it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Frankly in Love is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$17.99 or from The Book Depository.
Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me a review copy.
Trigger warnings: cancer, estrangement, racism