Skye Shin takes a chance by auditioning in a US K-pop music competition where contestants must compete against each other to impress the judges in a bid to win an opportunity to train in a South Korean music company. She’s up against hundreds of hopeful youths who are aiming to please the crowds, and she nails her audition, despite facing comments about her weight from the judges. But she has her sights set on success and no one, not even her overbearing mother and a growing crush on her competition, can stop her.
I had very high expectations for I’ll Be the One, and it’s so frustrating when you read a book that has so much potential, but it fails immensely in its execution. Skye is a young teen who has faced continuously comments about her weight, from passerby’s and their wandering eyes to her mother, who never fails to make at least one comment about her daughter’s body. She has grown quite the thick skin which makes her audition for a rising K-pop star competition go viral when she stands up to the judgemental comments about her body. Suddenly, everyone wants to know who she is and the comments come flooding in. Her mother wants her to quit, but Skye can’t give up the opportunity this win could give her. A chance to live in South Korea while training to be a potential K-pop star. That doesn’t help that Skye also has a crush on a fellow competitor, Henry Cho, who comes from a chaebol family (business conglomerate) and is notoriously known for his social media presence.
I’ll Be the One‘s greatest strength was the conversation about body-shaming and Skye’s journey as she navigates her life as a fat girl. Even though it isn’t own-voices, it was the part that stuck out the most to me and felt the most realistic. My own body isn’t that far off from Skye, and it truly felt like I was looking through my own eyes in some moments. I’m not Korean, but there is a similarity in Asian cultures about body types. My heart ached for Skye as she tries to prove her worth to her own mother. The latter who brushes everything off and continues to force very harmful ideals to her daughter, and does not take into account her feelings and thoughts in the entire process. I also really loved Skye as a character.
Okay, and here comes the rest of it. A lot of the book is about Skye’s internal struggle as she faces fatphobic comments about her body, and I wish the rest of the novel also stood as firm as those elements. Everything else about this book just felt flat. I found the writing style to be so weak, close to the point where I almost didn’t enjoy the book anymore. The dialogue felt so bulky that it read as unrealistic at some points. Some characters were terrific, especially Skye’s little group of friends that she makes in the competition were so sweet. You get some brilliant characters that are well thought out, and then others feel one-dimensional, and it was quite jarring to read. The romance for me was a miss, there was no build-up between the two, and it all felt forced for the sake of the plot. At one point, they would’ve been better off as close friends. There’s a lot of moments where we’re told how to feel rather than showing it play out, and it makes the story progression feel too easy.
The thing about I’ll Be the One is that I can see what the author was trying to create her, and I was so ready to praise this book hard from the very beginning. Still, it lacked in small areas that, overall, impacted my reading experience. I understand this review feels so negative, but I do believe in this book. And I would recommend it to anyone interested in the summary because it was still a fun book to read. It’s one of those books where you really have to take into account your own reading taste. Because I thought I would enjoy this, and while I did somewhat enjoy it, it still lacked in certain aspects. I don’t know if this book will continue to be a series in the future. And I’m not sure if I would be ready to follow Skye’s story in the future.