Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Hey y’all! I feel so lucky that I got a chance to read an ARC of one of my most anticipated reads of 2021! The more I think about Made in Korea, the more I love it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes one of my all time favourites. Skincare, small businesses, and a high stakes competition, Made in Korea has it all!
Content warnings: abandonment, injury, chronic illness
Synopsis: 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.
Our main characters, Valerie and Wes are in their senior year, just like me! Accurate portrayals of high school students is something I focus on a lot. Suk’s writing was incredibly refreshing; it’s simple but has a huge impact. We get to see them experience annual events, stress out about college, and just live life – no dramatics attached. As someone who isn’t able to fully experience their final year of high school, it put a smile on my face.
What is wrong with being a dreamer?
In essence, Made in Korea is a love story, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while. Both Valerie and Wes grow on their own and as a pair, which is key for any relationship. While I do respect the hustle Valerie has when it comes to her business, her learning to grow out of a transactional mindset has to happen. Wes seems like the exact opposite of Valerie and he needs to develop his confidence. Just because the two of them are owners of rival businesses, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are rivals themselves. Valerie and Wes clearly like each other, but the thought of risking their business (and the profit it brings) complicates matters.
You can’t always be nice to get what you want. Sometimes you have to be ambitious and fight to prove that you’re worth what you think you are.
The side characters! All of them are as vibrant as the protagonists and I truly think they could carry a novel on their own. Out of all the characters, I have a soft spot for Charlie. He was such a great cousin for Valerie. Their relationship worked so well because they supported each other throughout the entire story, even when things got difficult.
But to Valerie, that business is her life. That’s why I help her with it because I know how much it means to her.
Food as a love language…..do I have to say more? Made in Korea is filled with moments revolving around food and all of them warmed my heart. My favourite one had to be when a bunch of the characters, Taemin included, met over bingsu. It’s a scene that feels like what R&J could’ve been like if they actually communicated. You definitely shouldn’t read on an empty stomach!
To put it simply, Made in Korea was everything I needed. I also look forward to seeing more of Sarah Suk’s writing, since this is her debut novel.
Have you read or do you plan on reading Made in Korea? What are some other contemporaries that remind you of Made in Korea?