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I'll Be the One

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The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

328 pages, Hardcover

First published June 16, 2020

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About the author

Lyla Lee

18 books568 followers
Lyla Lee is the bestselling author of YA books about K-pop and K-dramas as well as the Mindy Kim series and the upcoming Gigi Shin books for younger readers. Her books have sold more than 40,000 copies and have been translated into multiple languages around the world. Originally from South Korea, she’s lived in various cities throughout the United States, worked various jobs in Hollywood, and studied Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she’s not writing, she likes to frequent cute cafes and play with her dog, Eiva the Siberian Husky. Visit Lyla at lylaleebooks.com or on social media (IG, Twitter, and TikTok @literarylyla).

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,030 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.4k followers
November 27, 2020
[Book #5 for my grad school YA class: our own choice of realistic fiction book!]
This was such a delight to read! I honestly couldn't put it down and had a smile on my face for most of it. Totally recommend it if you are looking for a fluffier contemporary that still has a great message and representation!
Profile Image for Hilly.
683 reviews1,217 followers
September 19, 2020
Hands down the best book about Kpop I’ve read so far. It was so worth the wait 💛

“I’m fat. People think it means I should hate myself, and when I don’t, it makes them uncomfortable. But this is just another part of who I am, and I’m happy with who I am.”

I’ve read a couple of books about Kpop in the last years but they were written by white writers, and guess what? They weren’t great.
This book is what I wanted from the beginning. An ownvoices Korean rep makes a huge freaking difference. Take note, publishing.

But this book wasn’t only an amazing ride with a fast paced Kpop competition that keeps you turning pages, it is also one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read. I loved the main character, Skye. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, even when people, including her mom, keep telling her she’s not fit enough to dance. The way she copes with the discrimination is to always show them that they’re wrong. The hate only makes her confidence skyrocket and we love to see that 😭✨

Fine, I think. Just one more person to prove wrong. Added to the list.

I also really really loved the bisexual rep, this book is full of positivity in every sense.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of was the romance. I felt pretty neutral towards it, and while it was a healthy and 100% supportive relationship, it never gave me the butterflies. When this book was announced I was stoked to know that Skye would fall for one of her competitors, but in the end it wasn’t really what I liked about this book. Which is absolutely not a bad thing! Honestly, the book would have been amazing even without the romance. The Kpop competition was so interesting on its own that everything else fell to the background for me.

The writing is special, very easy to read and to fly through. There is the right amount of dialogue and description, and it never feels like the story is going nowhere. At times it was a bit ridiculous, like how the expression “blow out of the water” was repeated throughout the book and it kind of made me laugh a little bit. Also Skye would do something and she would justify her action, as if silencing the reader before they started to judge. Chill Skye, I don’t need to know why you let Henry pay or why you’re facetiming while walking. It’s okay, I won’t say anything 😂

I loved that there was no drama at the end like YA or romcoms usually do, and I’m proud of myself for knowing almost all the songs mentioned. I was so excited about Ailee being in the book because she’s literally the first Kpop idol I thought about when I started reading! Skye is a lot like her!

I want to be the type of K-pop star who can sing and dance really well, so I can show everyone that big bodies aren’t something to be afraid of. I grew up thinking someone my size could never dance. And I don’t want the other kids watching at home to think that too.

If you are looking for a chef’s kiss YA book about Kpop with wholesome bi and fat rep, look no further.


Book: plus-sized bisexual Korean-American enters a tv reality competition to be a kpop star and falls in love with her famous competitor
Me: *throws money*
Me after seeing that cover: 😭😭🌈🌈🌈❤️
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,070 followers
February 12, 2021
ok, so i went into this book really worried about if i’d like it or not. i heard that it was a cute contemporary about a fat korean girl doing a kpop competition show and feared it’d gloss over the really extreme fatphobia in korean culture. but this book did not do that at all - it faced that head on without ever being condescending or reductive. i also loved all the queer rep in this book and that it touches on the taboo of being out in the kpop industry. and again, it felt honest in how it portrayed that and how queer stars actually have to navigate that part of korean society. the book never tried to wave a magic wand and solve these issues, but it still was able to discuss them with such hope.

i also adored the romance - the two leads had such good chemistry in my opinion! this is def more of a fluffy contemporary though - perfect for fans of maurene goo and jenny han.

also, i’d LOVE a sequel!!
Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews12.8k followers
May 27, 2020
UM. HI. THIS WAS LIKE THE BEST THING EVER?! This was the sweetest, most fun I've had with a book in a while! I LOVED our main girl Skye and how unapologetically herself she is. Skye is plus-size and bisexual and she lives her life the way she wants (and deserves!) to live it. The love interest was equally squishy and sweet and I just wanted the best for all the of side characters as well. Overall, a WONDERFUL contemporary with great diversity and compelling writing 😍HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
May 25, 2021

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DNF @ 24%

This is a tough review to write because I love what the book was trying to do. I just wasn't keen on the execution. I'LL BE THE ONE is about a heroine named Skye who wants to be a K-Pop star. The only problem is, she's plus-size and she knows that it's an industry that pretty ruthlessly regulates the appearances of its stars and is very unforgiving to girls (and boys) with bigger bodies. Despite that, she enters a singing competition anyway and manages to woo 2/3 of the judges to get to the next stage.

I think the way you feel about this book will depend on two things: how you feel about books that are as sweet and airy as storebought cupcakes (i.e. pure sugar and not a lot of substance, but nice to look at and endearing in their way) and how you feel about books that have a pretty obvious agenda and spend their whole page count whacking you over the head with it repeatedly.

As a plus-size woman, I love seeing books that raise women with bigger bodies up. But I want it to feel natural and I do want it to feel real and not like a post-it I've stuck to my bathroom mirror to empower myself. I'LL BE THE ONE is very cute but I personally felt like the shallowness of the material made its messages ring a little hollowly. Your mileage may vary.

2 to 2.5 stars
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,606 reviews4,998 followers
Want to read
February 20, 2020
"bisexual Korean-American teen girl"... "first plus-sized K-pop star"... *weeps in anticipation*

Plus this author's MG series is SO CUTE so I have super high hopes for this?!

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Sophia.
269 reviews2,028 followers
April 19, 2020
oh man, i REALLY really REALLY really wanted to love this one.

what it really boils down to is: this book is one of those projects where i think the importance of its existence is so astronomical, but the execution of it was disappointingly lackluster.

positives: korean american rep, bi rep, fat rep, incredible tackling of so many salient issues all at once in a way that makes you wanna cheer the author on

negatives: kind of everything else? i found the writing style to be so poor. characters were flat, dialogue was canned or clunky, character dynamics were one-dimensional, romance lacked chemistry. i really see what the author is trying to do here and i want to respect that, but the story just lacked craft.

if you're interested in this book, go for it, because i think it's doing great and significant work. but i found myself disappointed and wanting the story to work better than it did.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,014 reviews12.8k followers
April 6, 2021
THIS WAS SO FREAKING CUTE AND I COULD NOT STOP READING THIS BOOK. If you are looking for body positivity, you NEEEEEEED to pick up this book. Sky is fat and she's spent her whole life hearing her mom talk down to her and beg her to lose weight. But now, Sky is happy with her body and loves who she is. So when she tries out for a singing and dancing Kpop show, she is ready to show everyone what she has. She definitely meets adversity along the way because of her size, but she never lets that stop her. Sure we have moments of insecurity, but I loved Sky's confidence and how much she has learned to love herself and go after what she wants. She was literally AMAZING and I loved the whole singing/dancing show backdrop.

The romance in here was adorable, but Sky definitely stole the show. I loved the relationship that was explored with her parents and then her relationship with her old friends and new friends. I also loved the exploration of her sexuality as a bisexual person and how she was still trying to understand who she was. I just could not gush about this book enough and think everyone needs to pick it up!
Profile Image for Ellie.
571 reviews2,057 followers
September 28, 2020
I cannot express enough how fun, uplifting and inspiring this book was! Not only was there a plus-sized heroine, there was also so much great queer rep too? And the romance was so freaking soft? I was literally here tearing up at the end out of joy and the sheer level of cuteness.

I'm going to start with the queer rep, but the heroine Skye is on-page bisexual, and guess what? SO IS HER LOVE INTEREST HENRY CHO. I didn't know this before reading, so I was out here squealing when it was revealed. Bisexual rep can be pretty rare, especially when it comes to m/f relationships, and seeing two bisexual teens in a relationship was just . . . something so simple, but wonderful *cries* And that's not mentioning the BEST sapphic side couple ever, Lana and Tiffany, who were not only the Coolest Couple, but really supportive friends as well.

Really, so much about this book was uplifting - the heroine, Skye, is Korean-American and the book engages with Korean beauty standards, which are very narrow. Skye doesn't fit that narrow ideal, being plus-sized, but this book is full of body positivity and embracing who you are. As a heroine, Skye constantly impressed me with her courage and bravery, and she's so inspiring. I loved her journey, and it was beautiful seeing all her hard work pay off. If she was a real person, I would be stanning her hard. She's a total badass.

Skye's dynamic with her mother was something I found really interesting - her mother had always been encouraging Skye to lose weight, and it seemed clear she was embarrassed because her daughter didn't fit Korean beauty standards. It becomes interesting when you learned that she had been plus-sized like Skye when she was younger, and was constantly bullied for it - and she wants to save her daughter from this, but her daughter wants no part in changing who she is. There are aspects where it's clear she's proud of Skye in her own way, but still can't accept her daughter fully. And this complexity was really interesting, and I liked how Skye's mother wasn't left to be a one-dimensional villain.

On that note, within the competition there was no female rivalry, and I'm glad because I'm over that. The female characters (or most of them) were all supportive of each other, and it was great to see. When Lana and Tiffany were introduced, they were described as looking like members of a K-pop girl group, and I was worried they'd be set up as rivals. But no! They were supportive and sapphic! However, one of the judges, Jang Bora, was horrible to Skye consistently (there was discrimination and fat shaming), but she did serve the role of antagonist well because of it.

And on to the final part - Henry Cho. What a guy. Chaebol, model, bisexual, owner of the cutest white husky called Snowball. I really liked how his romance with Skye was developed, and his own backstory and developed. Together, they were just super cute.

Frankly, I really recommend this book if you're looking for a fun YA contemporary with hints of rom-com - especially if you're interested in K-Pop, or the Korean entertainment industry. There were also name drops here and there (BTS, Exo, Ailee, Epik High, and a few others were mentioned, plus my personal favourite, Heize, was in the acknowledgements). It's an addictive read and really well paced too, so I finished it within two sittings.

> 4.2 stars

also as a side note, may I direct you to this fabulous music video cover of 'rain on me' performed by naomi watanabe and yuriyan retriever, which I think Skye would be a fan of

you can also find this review on my blog here!


my amazing friend kelsea gifted this to me as a surprise and so go show her some love, her bookstagram is amazing

buddy read with the loves of my life kelsea & seline <3
Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
577 reviews5,582 followers
July 21, 2020
I had so much fun with this book! This story is just so bright in Skye's personality, the endless references to K-Pop, the friendships made along the way, and the romance that blossomed as the story progressed. This story also does a wonderful exploration into the toxic beauty standards that come along with being a K-Pop star, and I'm just so proud of Skye for standing out, standing up for herself, and not being afraid to try new things.

This is a wonderful book that I'd recommend for summery days because while the content can be heavy when discussing fatphobia and strained familial relationships, it's still a book that brought a smile to my face to see such a confident, wonderful protagonist living her best life.

- Plus-size, bisexual Korean teen named Skye enters a K-Pop reality TV competition
- Discusses the impossible beauty standards of K-Pop
- Wonderful, positive relationship between a father and daughter
- Explores the strained relationship between Skye and her mother

TW: Fatphobia, homophobia
Profile Image for nat.
70 reviews273 followers
July 2, 2021
bi fat korean-american MC in a k-pop survival show... i'm going to need you guys to get on this
Profile Image for breana / milkyboos ♡.
269 reviews1,453 followers
April 8, 2021
i loved this book more and more the longer i read, and i wish it had been written when i was 16 years old and needed someone to tell me that i should never be ashamed of the way i look or how much i weigh

this book balances the fun of the kpop world with the horror of the fatphobic culture behind it so well, and i especially appreciate how the book dealt with familial/parental abuse and didn't shy away from how damaging those "little comments" from parents or relatives can be

i laughed, i cried, i squealed over the romance, highly recommend!
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,652 reviews614 followers
October 25, 2020
I have to preface this by admitting I know nothing about K-Pop. That didn't prevent me from falling hard for this book though!

This was such a delight to listen to. It was an incredibly fun read and I really loved the romance - Henry is a love interest you can't help but love.

I loved the discussions on what it means to be fat in a fatphobic industry, and while it was hard to hear all the fatphobia, I loved how it was addressed every single time and how brave the main character was in standing up for herself and correcting people.

CWs: fatphobia, emotional abuse from a parent

Profile Image for Ashley.
757 reviews403 followers
October 26, 2020
Star Rating: —> 4.5 Stars !

Okay literally... I don’t even know how to rate this because this book, while it has some great reps, and some pretty heavy topics (bullying, fat shaming, emotional abuse).... it somehow all manages to feel like you’re eating... idk fluffy marshmallows.

The premise is: Skye Shin wants to be the world’s first female plus-sized K-Pop Star. She tries out for a K-Pop talent competition originating from Seoul, Korea, that this year sets up shop in LA— You’re My Shining Star, and gets in— for BOTH voice AND dance categories!

I honestly couldn’t put this down. It was empowering to women everywhere, it was witty, adorable, charming, It was swoon worthy- a celebrity, Henry Cho is in the competition with Skye and each catch the other’s eye 😉, and boy did it have me biting my nails in suspense every time an elimination came up! Theres’s just SOMETHING about Skye that you inherently like & want to root for!

This is a book essentially about standing up and saying— I LOVE WHO I AM, SO STOP TRYING TO CHANGE ME! and Skye does just that. She is plus-sized, and loves her figure— and is SO SICK of haters bullying her, who tell her that she isn’t beautiful because she’s fat. Or that she can’t dance because she’s fat. She is straight up sick of Korean beauty standards, especially in the music industry. She is also sick of being either berated by her mother who makes comments about her weight constantly and even asks her “don’t you want to be skinny & beautiful?” more times than I can count on one hand during the book.
Because she KNOWS she’s beautiful; she knows she can sing, and she knows she can damn well dance, and will be the one who wins the competition!
Its sweet but not TOO sweet and even believable, IMO! Incredible reps in way of korean culture in LA, in general- korean culture, K-POP ;-). Bi rep!!! Say whhhooooooopp all my bi friends in the house! Lol. So rare i come across a book with a Bi rep that is unambiguous so i’m loving feeling represented in that regard!

Anyway! Highly recommend if you’re looking for a fun read!

Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
543 reviews3,548 followers
March 22, 2020
I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review

CW: fatphobia, talk of queerphobia and non-accepting families, parental emotional abuse.


Okay, I must admit that, at first, I had a bit of a hard time getting into the writing. The author chose to lay down all the conflicts in the first couple chapters and that just...does not work for me. I like when it's gradual and implicit instead of being told "this this and this is what the MC is going to face in this book" so I was skeptical at first, especially since the pattern of being told that something is wrong was perpetuated throughout the book instead of showing the scene and letting the reader draw their own conclusions. That being said, I've been so excited for this book for so long that I decided to push through and see where the story was headed.

And I'm SO GLAD I did. About a third -or a little over that- through the book, the writing got better or I got used to it, either way, I found myself invested enough in the characters and the competition that the writing didn't bother me much anymore. I just let it do the job of telling the story. A story that's equally soft, fun and meaningful. It did quite a few things and it did them right.

First of all, the fat representation and fatphobia. Before I talk about this, know that I am not fat so I'm not talking about it from an ownvoices lense but I found this to be really well done. I loved seeing a fat main character who was utterly comfortable in her body and the conflict came from outside, not from within. That being said Lee also showed that always being scrutinized by everyone for the way you look does take a toll, and no matter how confident you are, those comments and remarks are bound to get to you and make you doubt yourself from time to time. Especially when coming from someone who's supposed to protect you. Namely your mother, her relationship with her mom was so hard to read and I found myself feeling for her but was glad that her dad was at least there to counterbalance everything.
But not only her mom, especially with Skye being out in the public eye, the judges of the competition, fellow competitors and people online also all thought they had a right to comment on her body. And I loved how she handled it each time, sometimes standing up to them, sometimes letting things go and sometimes just...being tired of it and unable to react. It just felt realistic. The author used this whole ordeal to call out the outrageous beauty standards in Korean culture and especially in the K-pop scene and everything the artists and put through. It's so awful it gave me chills, as someone who has really never been into the music.

The competition was fun but what I liked most are the relationships Skye got out of it. First up, here romance with Henry, the Korean model who's a huge cinnamon roll you just want to hug and protect. Their relationship developed so organically through the book, their banter was easy and natural and their chemistry extremely obvious, especially when dancing. Both of them are bi, and I liked how through that as well as two of their friends, we were shown that Korean culture is still not accepting of queer people and all the hoops they have to jump through to be happy, most times very far away from their families. My favorite friendship Skye formed is the one with Lana and Tiffany who make such a cute couple and I gobbled up every single moment she spent with them because of how unconditionally supportive of her they were. Also, CAN WE TALK ABOUT SNOWBALL???? cutest dog in literary history and I will take no arguments.

Do I recommend? Yes! it was such a fast and cute read, with its serious moments and topics.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,400 reviews8,119 followers
August 13, 2022
Okay I read this book at the ideal time because I am ~obsessed~ with “Hype Boy” by NewJeans which came out recently, BlackPink releases their new song “Pink Venom” in six days, and Twice’s next album comes out in less than two weeks! So excited for all of these K-Pop women to step on me!

Onto the book though. I enjoyed I’ll Be the One a lot because it’s both so cute and confronts serious topics. I’ve felt cognitive dissonance as a K-Pop fan because I love the music though the fatphobia and colorism are so toxic like ugh??? Lyla Lee tackles the fatphobia head on through this story that details a fat teen, Skye Shin, competing in a K-Pop reality television show with the hope of winning and joining an established K-Pop entertainment company in Korea. Lee does an excellent job of portraying difficult mother-daughter dynamics, fatphobia, and bisexuality and stigmas against bisexuality. She highlights these topics in an empowering way without undercutting their complexities. I also appreciated Skye’s character – she’s confident and charismatic while still real and vulnerable. Lee’s writing flows well and the story moves fast in a pleasant way.

I had mixed feelings about Skye’s romantic relationship with Henry Cho. On one hand, I love the representation of Asian American men (I guess in this case Henry is still a teenager, though you know what I mean) as desirable and Asian American folks dating one another, because white people are still so prevalent and that’s yikes. At the same time, I think the romance made the book super fluffy – as opposed to just fluffy – and I wonder if the book could have more deeply explored its central topics related to fatphobia, bisexuality, etc. with that page time instead. I suppose some books, especially young-adult books, are allowed to be this fluffy though. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about Henry being written as this near six foot tall, super fit (I think he has abs?) guy. I suppose in this case it’s fine though I know men in the K-Pop industry, as well as men outside the industry, suffer from body image even if they’re not held to the same standards as women.

Overall I liked this book a lot and would recommend it to K-Pop fans looking for a light read! This book felt so hopeful and optimistic and I’m curious if evoking any of these changes in the K-Pop industry would actually work.
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
479 reviews691 followers
November 24, 2020
Thank you Katherine Tegen Books for the gifted review copy!

How can I write a coherent review for this glorious book? I mean I knew I would really enjoy it but I fell in love with it so much more than I even expected. The book was so inspiring and played with my heart strings. I honestly felt hooked from the first chapter. I really enjoyed how easy it was to read. The writing was something I got lost in easily and before I knew it I had already read several chapters.

Skye is possibly one of my most favorite main characters, period. She’s this complete ray of sunshine and I just love her confidence. She loves herself and despite everything that she has been through she still remains the most positive and loving person there is. I’m not fat so I can’t pretend to know what fatphobia must feel like and I’m not an ownvoice. I do have a few things to say. I love how body positive Skye was. I loved to see her comfortable in her own body. I loved that she proved that the fault was not in her but in the people around her. The unbelievable beauty standards that our societies have. I’ve read so much about Korean beauty standards and the things people go through for that approval whether willingly or not, especially in the Kpop industry. I love that the author pointed this out and called it out here. I love that the author also showed the effect that the shaming and horrible comments can have on someone even if they do love their body. From time to time the things that people say will seep through the cracks.

Henry Cho was so easy to love! If I’m being honest all the friends that Skye made were. I loved that we got a good look at their relationships and how supportive they all were of each other. Henry was the biggest softie! He’s also easily one of my favorite characters. He wasn’t one of those characters that starts off as a jerk and then suddenly becomes all sweet. He just was sweet from the very beginning. I loved that the author showed what it was like on his side with being a model and everything. You truly never know what someones life is like or what they’re going through or have had to go through. Someone’s Instagram feed doesn’t give anyone the right to just assume something about someone. I loved that the relationship between him and Skye was so simple and cute. I needed something fluffy and this book came right in! Skye, Tiffany and Lana were my favorite friendship. Their relationship was supporting all around and I just love girls supporting girls so much. Steve and Portia were also so nice and I loved how they were around Skye as the story progressed.

I’m personally a huge fan of Kpop and have been for years. So all the songs and groups mentioned made me have so many fangirl moments. I loved reading about the competitions. It was very frustrating at times because of the things that Skye had to go through and the awful people she met, but if Skye proved anything it’s that she is the most amazing and confident person there is. That ending was everything I had hoped for and so much more!

I’ve written so much and I don’t really know what else to say other than I loved this book and you need to read it! This has become a new favorite and I’m definitely going to be looking out for future books by Lyla Lee.


Thank you to the publishers for a gifted review copy! Going to have to start this one asap 😍
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,668 reviews851 followers
January 20, 2021
Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Skye (mc) is fat, bi & Korean; Henry (li) is bi & Korean; Tiffany & Lana (scs) are East Asian & lesbian; Black, Asian & Latinx scs.

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Melissa.
493 reviews57 followers
June 20, 2020

I loved this sweet, warm, empowering read. Skye is an amazing character and I loved her from the first page, when she was 5 and telling her mom she’d prove her wrong. I loved that this one tackled so many complex issues, like fat phobia and cultural ideals head on. I was so engrossed in this story, I finished it in one sitting.

I highly recommend this one when you’re in the mood for a book with a lot of heart and a character who doesn’t back down.

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my review.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
612 reviews625 followers
July 6, 2020
my bookstagram picture of the cover on ipad

I'll be the One is a stand-out novel when it comes to the representation and portrayal of being a fat Korean girl trying to make it in the K-Pop industry but sadly doesn't deliver a compelling storyline or relationships.

“I'm fat. People think it means I should hate myself and when I don't, it makes them uncomfortable. But this is just another part of who I am, and I'm happy with who I am.”

Now before I start this review, I wanna say that I am not and never have been fat, I am white and I have never tried to get into the K-Pop industry, so I understand that my experience is VASTLY different from Skye's and much easier and privileged in many ways.
But I will say that I had an immense appreciation for the portrayal of someone with a "non-conventional" body trying to make it an industry that was very fixed ideas on how you are supposed to look like. As someone who has been dancing her entire life too and has always been eyeing with making it my career (eventually settling on musical theatre), I do have lots of similar stories to share of people doubting my abilities because of the way that I looked, people telling me I couldn't do certain things or being surprised that I was as good as I was.
And this novel just meant a lot to me for that aspect alone. I found Skye's experience to be so incredibly relatable and it made me reflect on a lot of things that I had experienced but also how much I had changed with how I see my body and its "value" within the industry.
Anyway, I just really wanted to talk about this first because, again, this aspect means a lot to me personally and certainly had a huge impact on how I feel about this book and I just deeply appreciate this portrayal.

One of the biggest aspects talked about in this book is Skye's relationship with her mother, which is.. rocky at best. Skye's mother makes constant comments about her body, telling her she shouldn't dance because of the way she looks and she not only very negatively influenced Skye's body image but also her relation to food (although that is only mentioned briefly, as it happened in the past).
Basically all her life, Skye had to hear from her mum that she is not good enough and not only should she herself be ashamed of the way that she looks but also it becomes very clear very fast, that her mum is ashamed of her daughter's body too. This relationship was not an easy one to read about, although sadly something that many people will be able to relate to too.
I loved seeing the way that Skye stood up against her mother specifically. It is sad that Skye had to fight to hard to love her own body because no one told her that it is okay to do so but I liked to see the portrayal of how Skye ended up being so incredibly body-positive, despite growing up with a mum like this.
I had some conflicting feelings about how the relationship between Skye and her mum was wrapped up though. In a way I liked how it ended in regards to how Skye's mum saw her own daughter at the end of the novel and the way that Skye came to terms with it. On the other hand, the term emotional abuse gets mentioned earlier on in the book and that is something that NEVER ends up getting addressed again, which I find disappointing at the very least but maybe even slightly questionable.

“My mum is who she is. But I can still change myself and what sort of impact I have on other people. So I'm going to try to become stronger as a person and keep having a positive impact on people, like I have here.”

In general, Skye defied every person that tried to tell her it was impossible to be a fat K-Pop idol. Skye wants to make this dream of hers come true and she is not letting anybody tell her she can't do it because she knows she has the talent for it, it's just that society is thinking she can't just because of the way that she looks.
I love Skye's determination in making it in the industry without changing who she is, for herself, but also to be a role model and inspiration for other people. I truly loved this portrayal so very much.

I will say that while it was interesting to see Skye during the competition, I definitely wish we had seen her life after it. To me personally, this is where the weak storyline aspect comes in. The competition wasn't particularly compelling to read about. A lot of this novel focuses on the issues at hand and while, of course, these are topics that are important and need to be talked about and, as should be apparent from the rest of this review, is representation that I appreciate deeply, I think that in some ways the storyline ended up being lacking due to it.

The main relationship within the novel is m/f but Skye identifies as bi and we have several queer side-characters and a side-relationship that is f/f and gets introduced very early on in the novel. This novel also touches upon the queerphobia in many Korean families and Skye talks about how she would never be allowed to date a girl.
There is honestly not much for me to say about the romantic relationship in this book. Quite frankly, I found it very forgettable and can't really remember any specific moments between the two characters. I guess I just didn't really feel the romantic chemistry and I don't think this aspect stood out in any particular way.

“'You are beautiful,' I whisper to myself. 'Don't let anyone, not even yourself, tell you any different.”

Another aspect that gets briefly mentioned is the colourism within the K-Pop industry, called out by a Black side character. I definitely wish that this aspect had gotten a little bit more attention but I also understand that there is only so much you can do in one novel and I appreciate that it was acknowledged.

Overall I think that I'll be the One is a novel with incredibly important representation and some really refreshing aspects, especially considering how it seems to be a trend to publish novels about K-Pop right now. I hope we continue to see different kinds of experiences around this topic and I think that this novel is an incredibly important and big step forward.
I would definitely recommend this overall. I had a very pleasant reading experience and despite a lot of its tougher topics, found this to be a delightful read because Skye is truly a delightful character.

Trigger and Content warnings for fatphobia, queerphobia, talk of dieting and restrictive eating (even leading to hospitalization) in the past.

Buddy read with Melanie

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I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for kate.
1,075 reviews913 followers
July 17, 2020
This book left my heart and soul brimming with pure joy.

- Skye was such a wonderful character with a wonderfully unique and strong voice. I adored and admired her her wit, strength, heart and refusal to change herself for anyone from the first page. Skye is the kind of character I wish I'd seen in books and the media growing up. Her attitude towards not only her body but how other perceived it was so incredibly empowering and made it all the more obvious how much we need more truly body positive characters, not only in YA, but in the media in general. As a fat, bi, Korean girl, with a powerful mindset, Skye's perspective was a breath of fresh air.

- Although this book undeniably features a lot of fatphobia, I felt as though it was dealt with superbly. It portrayed the very real way in which fatphobia is still alive and thriving in all cultures but it was never excused. It was made very clear that all the fatphobic, body shaming comments and attitudes were entirely wrong and the fact that Skye was unflinching in her positive attitude towards her body made me unbelievably happy. It was great to see both Skye herself and her friends calling out the blatant fatphobia within the competition and my heart grew every time Skye stuck up for herself and explained why she didn't need nor want to change. I loved that any conflict that Skye faced came from the outside, rather than from herself. She was truly happy and comfortable in her own skin and for me, that's what made this a true body positive read.

- The relationship between Henry and Skye was soft, adorable and peak rom-com excellence. Their chemistry and banter was perfect. With both Skye and Henry being bi (and an adorable f/f relationship between two of their friends), I thought the way Lyla Lee explored how Korean culture can still be unaccepting towards the LGBTQIA+ community was really interesting and whilst heartbreaking, also hopeful.

- Whilst the competition elements were super fun, for me, the best part of the competition were the relationships Skye forged throughout it. Her friendship with Lana and Tiffany (aka the cutest couple) was so much fun and I loved how supportive they were of each other.

- Skye's relationship with her mother was so hard to read at times. It completely broke my heart. I'm not Korean, so I can't speak for the representation for Korean attitudes towards bodies but I thought their relationship dynamic was really interesting to follow and I felt the way the book left it fitted perfectly.

Overall, this is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2020 and now has a comfortable home amongst my all time favourite contemporaries. I couldn't recommend this more highly. If you're looking for a diverse, fun and body positive read with the cutest relationship, supportive friendships, music, passion, adorable dog and a lot of heart, this is the book for you.

TW: fatphobia, body shaming, discussion of queerphobia
Profile Image for Mitticus.
964 reviews209 followers
July 20, 2020
Fun and cute.

“I’m fat. People think it means I should hate myself, and when I don’t, it makes them uncomfortable. But this is just another part of who I am, and I’m happy with who I am.”
[...] “You’re living your best life,” he says. “They’re not.”

Cheesy? Corny? Too straightforward? Yes. But. I. DON'T. CARE :D

Haneul "Skye" Shin is a 16-year-old Korean-American bisexual plus size girl with a big dream: to be a K-pop star. So when she knows there will be a talent competition for K-pop in Los Angeles, where she lives, she immediately goes to show her talent as a dancer and singer, no matter what her mother think, the others think, and even the same people from the K-pop scene who favor the extra slim girls.

As you might suppose with that presentation, there is a theme for everyone in this story, against prejudice and he definition of normal according to who knows what standards.

-Non-white heroin.
-Cheerful and courageous teen.
-Plus size dancer young lady.

It is a fairly linear story, without great dramas, being the biggest conflict with her mother. The romantic interest, pleasant surprise, is quite sweet and pleasant. There are some comments about the nasty comments online, mainly what they call fat-phobia here. In the world of the spectacle we see this criticism often and I think that more than someone will feel identified, and I include myself here.

So if you want a simple story, to enjoy your day. )And especially if you like to sing and dance). Here you have it :)

{This time in Spanish}

Haneul "Skye" Shin es una chica de 16 años , coreana-americana , bisexual y rellenita, con un gran sueño: ser estrella de K-pop. Asi que cuando sabe que habrá una competencia de talentos para K-pop en Los Angeles, donde ella vive, acude de inmediato dispuesta a demostrar su talento como bailarina y cantante , sin que le importe lo que piense su madre, los demás, y hasta la misma gente del ambiente del K-pop que favorece a las chicas extra delgadas.

Como podran suponer con esa presentación, hay tema para todos en esta historia, en contra de los prejuicios y la definición de normal según quién sabe que estandares.

De modo que tenemos:

-Heroína no-blanca.
-Adolescente alegre y valiente.
- Bailarina de talla grande.

Es una historia bastante lineal, sin grandes dramas, siendo el mayor conflicto con su madre. El interés romántico, grata sorpresa, es bastante dulce y agradable. Hay algunos comentarios acerca de los comentarios desagrables en linea, principalmente lo que aqui llaman gordo fobia. En el mundo del espectaculo esta crítica la vemos seguido y creo que más de alguien se sentirá identificado, y aqui me incluyo siendo adolescente.

Asi que si quieres una historia sencilla, para agradarte el dia y disfrutar. (Y sobre todo si te gusta cantar y bailar) Aqui la tienes :)

#QueenSkye #Bodypositivity
Profile Image for nitya.
342 reviews267 followers
March 7, 2022
This book!!!!!!!!!!!! I have too many emotions 😭😭😭🥰🥰😭😭

As a plus size Asian (YES WE EXIST), I loved Skye's strength and self-love journey. It was both affirming and cathartic. Also the female friendships/solidarity!!! And Henry being soft and supportive 🥺

Content warning: fatphobia/body shaming, bullying, emotional abuse, queerphobia, homophobia, racism (microaggressions), Harry Potter references (this was written in 2018 though)
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,892 reviews3,108 followers
May 1, 2022
This was SO CUTE!! And while it tackles some difficult topics like fatphobia, fat-shaming, and bullying, it does it in a way that never feels heavy or hopeless. And part of that is because our heroine Skye is so vibrant, positive, and willing to stand up for herself when no one else will.

Skye is a bisexual, fat Korean-American teenager competing on a K-pop inspired show for singing and dancing. She is passionate and super talented, but she's dealing with an openly fatphobic judge, a mom who is extremely critical and concerned with appearances, and nasty internet trolls in social media comments. But while on the show she makes some great friends and sparks fly with her already famous co-star Henry Cho, who is also bisexual.

I just adored this. It is emphatically body positive, pushes back on fatphobic rhetoric, and embraces the heroine's Korean heritage in cool ways. I don't know exactly what magic the author has, but she dealt with heavy, painful stuff while making it feel upbeat and joyful. Loved it.
Profile Image for Lyla Lee.
Author 18 books568 followers
May 16, 2022
I just realized I never reviewed my own book? Wild. First things first, yes, I hear everyone about the HP references. Last year, I asked my publisher to remove them from the book as I do not stand with JK Rowling AT ALL in her beliefs, but sadly, things in publishing tend to be very slow so I have no idea when they'll actually be replaced. I consider the references one of the (if not THE!) worst mistakes I made as a newbie author.

I don't even personally like HP but just included the references in my book because at the time that I wrote the book (this was before Rowling made her anti-trans beliefs very public and very clear), the teens I was teaching loved HP and I wanted to make the book "more relatable." It was such a rookie mistake and I deeply regret this decision. As a queer person myself it pains me to even think about the references being in the book and I hope they can be replaced soon.

But yes, anyway, this was my debut. It's not perfect but it's essentially the letter I wrote to my teen self and it's the letter I wrote to anyone who may be struggling with similar circumstances. It's a book I wrote after getting out of one of my darkest times, fueled by BTS and the other K-pop artists I danced along with during the days I really struggled. It's also a fun (at least, I hope so) story that I wrote while listening to countless K-pop songs on repeat. I'm not sorry about the K-pop references. You can find the official playlist here: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/ill-be...

Thank you so much to everyone who loved and continues to love it.

My next YA book, FLIP THE SCRIPT, comes out in just two weeks! Like I'll Be the One is my love letter to K-pop, Flip the Script is my love letter to k-dramas, both of which I grew up with. There are happily no HP references in this new book. 🌸 Wishing everyone the best as always.
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