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‘Frankly in Love’ is refreshingly honest

| Monday, September 30, 2019

Nicole Simon | The Observer

While novels in the Young Adult genre contain many unrealistic elements, they possess a major strength in their ability to highlight diversity and mental health.

David Yoon, husband of Nicola Yoon — author of “Everything, Everything” and “The Sun Is Also A Star” — continues this trend with his debut novel, “Frankly in Love.”

Main character Frank Li lives in Orange County, Southern California. His parents immigrated to the United States from Korea. Though Frank identifies as Korean-American, he finds himself torn between Korean and American culture, a tear exacerbated by pressure from his strictly Korean parents and his desire to fit in with his friends and peers.

This struggle drives the second major plot point, Frank Li’s love life. When Frank and love interest / calculus classmate Brit Means start a budding relationship, he scrambles for a way to date Brit while not disappointing his parents.

His solution involves a close family friend in a similar situation — Joy Song. Joy also keeps a clandestine relationship with Chinese boyfriend, Wu Tang, hidden from her parents. Frank and Joy decide to pretend they are dating for their parents, so they can see their respective significant others in secret.

If you think that’s complicated, you should pick up the book and see where it leads.

Yoon writes a good story founded on a solid variation of the classic YA plot. He moves it along at a good pace — almost too fast when you pause to think about certain significant details revealed at the end. His style advances the novel further with his refreshing blend of humor, metaphor and overall perspective. Regarding metaphor, his incorporation of it and reference to it remind me of John Green in the best way.

Yoon creates memorable characters as well. Reveling in Yoon’s character names, his lurid details about character appearances and his descriptions of their hobbies, I found myself immersed in the visual world Yoon pieced together from the beginning of the book to the end.

Ultimately, Yoon’s novel is a compelling story built on a very personal part of his identity.

I suspend disbelief rather easily, especially when it comes to YA novels, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect for the ending. I think I was mostly satisfied with it, but it’s also open to the possibility of a sequel.

My Book of the Month subscription brought Yoon’s novel to my attention, and I’m very glad it did. It was a smart selection on their part as one of five choices for the month of September (it was released Sept. 10) as it deals with complex concepts that apply to pretty much any reader: romantic relationships, relationships with parents, making your way in society and being yourself (to name a few.) Though I’m a junior in college, I found this story with high-school aged characters still spoke to me very strongly and taught me some new lessons.

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