Rating: 4 / 5
David Yoon’s Frankly in Love is the story of a Korean-American teen who finds himself in two complicated relationships at once – one with a white girl his parents wouldn’t approve of, and the other with a fellow Korean-American who he starts fake-dating to keep his family happy.
Thanks to Penguin Teen for the free copy of this book!
Frank Li is a bright, thoughtful young man. As a senior on college, his priorities include getting the best grades possible, family, and – suddenly – girls! When he begins dating Brit, a white girl, he knows that his Korean parents would not approve – they only want him to date Korean girls. He finds this, and many other things that his parents say and do, racist. And while he knows this thinking is wrong, he also knows that it’s just easier to let his parents pretend that he’s following their rules. So he pretends to start dating Joy, a long-time family friend.
Frank’s parents don’t know about Brit, and Brit doesn’t know about Joy, and Frank quickly finds himself in a web of lies that he’s having trouble getting out of. To top it all off, he might have more than friendly feelings for Joy. Frankly in Love is a delightful, thoughtful novel about familial obligations, the American dream, fitting in, young love, and so much more.
Please take caution while reading Frankly in Love if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death / dying
What an utter delight Frankly in Love is! Yoon packs so much good stuff into this novel in a wonderfully light-hearted package, and it is a winner. This is a Young Adult novel, so while it tackles tough subjects, it does so in a way that is digestible and appropriate for younger audiences. This is not to suggest that the story lacks depth – in fact, Yoon injects so much intelligence and heart into this book.
The core of Frankly in Love is two-fold: being a teenager, and feeling only partly American and only partly Korean. Frank struggles with both of these – he has to balance dating with family obligations with grades with friends at the same time that he is exploring his place in this world as both Korean and American. He never feels that he fully fits in within either pocket of his life – with friends and at school where he can be his true self but is still always Korean, and with family where he must play the part of the perfect Korean son but is always too American. Following Frank as he navigates this delicate, complicated relationship within himself is so eye-opening and thought-provoking.
The romantic aspects of this book are perfectly delightful and honest. Frank has a very hard time navigating his new relationship versus his friendships and family, and he stumbles through emotional intimacy and honesty. I love this frank (lol) depiction of a teenage relationship and feel like it perfectly encapsulates some of the universal struggles that young people face.
Yoon’s writing is quick and so clever. He uses names to give people and places double meanings, which is so fun! He’s also very blunt about racism – he calls a spade a spade when Frank’s parents’ communicate their distaste of Hispanic and Black patrons of their store, white girls, and generally anyone that isn’t Korean. This is very interesting, because when I hear the term “racism,” I generally think of a white person perpetrating against a person of color (a prejudice of mine, perhaps?). A new perspective on and depiction of racism – and really, everything in this book – is fantastic and thought-provoking representation.
Frank’s story is at once a delightful story of a boy growing up and a thoughtful exploration of non-white American-ness. I so enjoyed following Frank as he navigates young adulthood, first loves, and his identity as a Korean-American. If you think you don’t like the YA genre, I promise you it’s only because you haven’t read any great YA books. Start here (or with The Hate U Give and On the Come Up) to be converted!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Frankly in Love. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!