Made in Korea is a breath of fresh air even for someone who reads a lot of YA contemporaries. Everything about this book was likable and exactly what I needed.
From the Blurb:
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity — one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school — all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
It’s the beginning of Senior year and Valerie Kwon is ready to make more sales from her student-run business, V&C K-BEAUTY. She’s run her successful Korean beauty supply business with her cousin, Charlie, for the past few years. They’re not only the longest-running business at her school, but they are the most successful. V&C K-BEAUTY means everything to Valerie. She’s not only brilliant at running it but she dreams of finally taking her halmeoni (grandmother) to Paris this summer.
Enter, Wes Jung, the new kid at school who pops up and ruins everything for Valerie.
After his mom thrusts free samples of the hottest K-pop group’s new lip balm line at him to share with his friends, Wes finds himself in an unexpected situation. He quickly realizes that he needs to earn money and fast if he plans to go to music school next year without his parent’s approval. When he sees that the kids at his new school like the freebies his mom happily gives him, Wes decides to open his own student-run business of selling K-pop merch. That merch just so happens to be mostly beauty supplies at the moment, and Valerie is not happy.
Told through dual POVs it’s easy to fall in love with both Valerie and Wes. Valerie comes off cold, angry, and uninterested in anyone who she doesn’t consider a customer. Wes is the polar opposite. He’s sweet, caring, and incredibly shy especially when it comes to confrontations with Valerie. It was so much fun to see the roles reversed in a YA contemporary! We usually read about a kind and loving girl character falling for the bad boy, but here we have a bit of the opposite when it came to Valerie and Wes. I loved it!
They turn into rivals and a lot of drama comes along with this. Lots of betrayals, betting on who can make more sales, and face-offs. Underneath the funny games between the two, there’s a lot of heart in this book, too. Both Valerie and Wes are at a turning point in their lives and they’re unsure of where to go next.
I think a lot of young readers will be able to relate to this story, especially readers who feel like they have obligations to their family. Both Valerie and Wes want to make their families proud, but they aren’t sure if by doing so they’ll find their own happiness. Their families play a major role in their story. I enjoyed reading about the insecurities they felt inside of their homes because it was so honest. Sarah Suk did a wonderful job exploring two different sides of how it feels to grow up with a family that expects more out of you than what you can give.
Overall, I adored Made in Korea. The writing was the cherry on top! I was completely engaged with the characters and their fun antics. I’m happy we got dual POVs because we were able to understand where both Valerie and Wes were coming from, and how their businesses motivated them differently.
If you enjoy YA contemporary, rom-coms, or stories centered around family then this is the perfect book for you!