Dancing (And Singing) Through (KPop) Life: A Review of I’ll Be the One

Review:

I’ll Be The One

By Lyla Lee

Rating: 4/5

Genre: YA Romance/Realistic Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: Yes

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Skye Shin knows what she is: a fat girl with an incredible gift for singing and dancing. She knows what she wants: to be the next big KPop Star. She knows how to get it: by signing up for the new reality show You’re My Shining Star. But Skye also knows it won’t be easy. Between her mother who is embarrassed and ashamed of her fat daughter and a culture that sees Skye as nothing beyond the shape of her body, there is a lot working against her. But when rich, model Henry Chin starts hanging around her, Skye finds that she has even more attention and even more pressure, than she expected. Will she be able to push through the criticism of fatphobic asshats and win her dream?

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Hi, my name is Grace, and I’m fat. It’s a thing about me, probably something people who don’t know me notice first. It’s not nearly the most interesting thing about me, but it’s also not something I’m ashamed of. This is my body, and I like it just fine, thanks for asking! I grew up reading books and watching movies about young women who go from fat and ugly to skinny and pretty. I’ve seen fat people be the sidekicks, the best friends, the comedic relief. I don’t think I can remember a single fat character from my childhood that was the romantic interest or the star of her own story.

Enter I’ll Be The One, a story not about changing your body to fit expectations, but instead a story about a girl who is talented and sure of herself. It’s not that Skye never doubts herself, it’s that she consistently chooses to value herself over what others think about her. Over the course of the novel, she finds both support and opposition from the people around her.

One of the central themes of the story is that oftentimes those who should be the most supportive of the young are the most damaging. The adults in Skye’s life are consistently the ones who are pushing her to change, who tell her that she cannot do things simply because of her size. From her mother to the judges during the competition, the adults prove to be bigger bullies than the vast majority of the youth around her.

There have been adult heroes in my life and there have been adult villains. Some of the worst bullies young women face are often adults. Watching Skye deal deftly with these adults who would break her down while also leaning on the friends she has that support her is a truly joyful experience.

This is a vital aspect to Skye’s story and, I believe, the story of most people with bodies that don’t meet the white, heteronormative beauty standards society forces on us. Often in stories we see adults as the heroes only.

I’ll Be the One is half love letter, half battle cry, and entirely full of love and hope. Skye is the kind of YA hero that I wish I had growing up. I’m so glad she exists in the world to be an example and inspiring to future generations of readers. 

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love I’ll Be the One? Leave a comment with a link to your favorite KPop music video. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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