Book Review: “K-Pop Confidential” by Stephan Lee

Cover of "K-Pop Confidential" by Stephan Lee
Cover of “K-Pop Confidential” by Stephan Lee.

I’m back with another book review and this time I’m reviewing “K-Pop Confidential” by Stephan Lee! It’s not often that I hear about books with a k-pop music industry setting, so I picked this one up out of interest to see how it goes. Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

“Candace Park knows a lot about playing a role. For most of her life, she’s been playing the role of the quiet Korean girl who takes all AP classes and plays a classical instrument, keeping her dreams of stardom-and her obsession with SLK, K-pop’s top boyband-to herself. She doesn’t see how a regular girl like her could possibly become one of those K-pop goddesses she sees on YouTube. Even though she can sing. Like, really sing.

So when Candace secretly enters a global audition held by SLK’s music label, the last thing she expects is to actually get a coveted spot in their trainee program. And convincing her strict parents to let her to go is all but impossible … although it’s nothing compared to what comes next.

Under the strict supervision of her instructors at the label’s headquarters in Seoul, Candace must perfect her performance skills to within an inch of her life, learn to speak Korean fluently, and navigate the complex hierarchies of her fellow trainees, all while following the strict rules of the industry. Rule number one? NO DATING, which becomes impossible to follow when she meets a dreamy boy trainee. And in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.

If she doesn’t have what it takes to become a perfect, hair-flipping K-pop idol, what will that mean for her family, who have sacrificed everything to give her the chance? And is a spot in the most hyped K-pop girl group of all time really worth risking her friendships, her future, and everything she believes in?”

Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading Candace’s parents out of all the characters. Despite being people that failed to shine in the music industry themselves, they encouraged their daughter to go for her dreams (though reminded her of the risks involved, which is quite sweet of them to do.

I found it harder to sympathize with Candace because even though she did get mistreated a lot by the rest of the trainees and even the staff, she barely bothered to look up modern Korean social etiquitte and even learn the language until she was forced to do so during her training. I also thought the love triangle situation she had going on with the love interests was also pointless, since it didn’t really lead anywhere.

Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed the fast-paced story within this book. I think it lent well to the K-Pop trainee setting that most of the book took place at, and all the unexpected twists and turns involved worked well with the pacing.

However, I felt let down by the ending. I’m surprised Candace actually bothered to stick up for Helena, considering that Helena spent most of the book tormenting her and then the two suddenly made up easily in one chapter after just a bit of explanation. I blame that on the fast pacing of the story, however.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Despite the concept and the setting, I think I enjoyed reading this book more for the plot than the characters. I am interested to see how Candace’s k-pop journey goes now that she officially debuted as a star along with the rest of her group, so I might pick up the sequel to read in the near future

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