Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for Made in Korea by Sarah Suk. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to interview Sarah Suk be sure to see it before my review. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the tour schedule for other content creators. Be sure to enter the giveaway near the bottom of the post–this is US only.
Thank you to Sarah Suk and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC for this review
Sarah Suk (pronounced like soup with a K) lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes stories and admires mountains. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the water, taking film photos, or eating a bowl of bingsu. You can visit her on Twitter and Instagram @sarahaelisuk.
Sarah is represented by Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary Agency.
About The Book
Title: Made in Korea
Author: Sarah Suk
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: May 18th, 2021
Page Length: 352
Age Range: YA
Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.
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.
What inspired you to write Made in Korea?
SS: My inspiration for Made in Korea began with the desire to write a fun, contemporary, unapologetically Korean diaspora story. It started with the thought, ‘I want to write a story about teens selling K-beauty products at school, but I don’t know what else they do yet’ and it just kept on growing from there!
Were Valerie, Charlie and Wes inspired by anybody in your life?
SS: Yes and no. I didn’t base entire characters on myself or people I know, but there are definitely details about them that were inspired by real life. For example, Wes plays the saxophone because that’s the instrument my husband played in his high school band class. There’s a character named Pauline who loves aquatic life because at the time I was writing the book, my niece loved everything under the sea. Pauline also has eczema which is directly inspired from my own experience. I’d also say I see a little bit of myself in each character’s personality, from Valerie’s ambition, Wes’ love for the arts, and Charlie’s sense of loyalty.
You mentioned starting Made in Korea with the idea of teens selling K-beauty products but hadn’t know at the time what else they would get up to. Without spoilers, did you have an idea on how you wanted it to end (overall feeling/tone etc.)? Did it change from the initial thought?
SS: It took me a while to figure out the story from that initial start point. I wrote many different versions of the outline from beginning to end, but once I got a sense of how Valerie and Wes’ relationship would look, it all came together, and I had a much clearer idea of what scene I wanted to end the book with. From the very first full draft I wrote to the published novel we have today, that end scene has stayed mostly the same.
Valerie is obsessed with Hi-Chews. What is your candy obsession? If it’s Hi-Chews, which is your favourite flavour and why?
SS: I do love Hi-Chews, which is why I wrote them into the book, though I don’t know if I’m quite as obsessed as Valerie haha. That said, my favourite flavour is strawberry! I also like Sour Patch Kids.
Wes plays the saxophone. Can you play any musical instrument or can you sing?
SS: I learned a little bit of piano when I was a kid, played the flute in high school, and taught myself ukulele for a while, but it’s been a long time since I’ve played any of them. I would love to pick up an instrument again though!
You included a lot of Korean culture throughout Made in Korea. Was there any cultural element you wanted to include, but couldn’t for whatever reason?
SS: I think with this book, I was able to include everything I wanted to. I hope I can continue to explore different elements of Korean culture in future books.
Without spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write?
SS: Definitely all the scenes between Valerie and Halmeoni (her grandmother). Those were some of my favourite moments in the book. They were just very healing and tender. I also loved writing the Halloween scenes!
Was Crescent Brook High School based on your own high school? Were there any elements inspired by your high school?
SS: In some ways! My school didn’t encourage student-run businesses like Crescent Brook does, though that would have been very cool. I’d say the biggest inspiration was band class, which was a big part of my high school experience and the reason why I wanted to include that element with Wes.
Rep: Asian (Korean OwnVoices)
This book was a fun read. I enjoyed the antics that ensued because of the competing businesses. Although that specific aspect of the book was outside of my high school experience, there were many ways that I still connected with the character’s experiences. I loved the way Suk wrote her characters and the relationships between them all. I found my favourite relationship was between Valerie and her grandmother. Although I didn’t have the exact same relationship between my grandma and myself, it was relatively close. I always felt I better connected with my grandma than my mother–similar strict dynamics too!
I didn’t play Sax, but I did play flute in elementary school and clarinet in high school. I understand the comfort one can feel with playing an instrument and wanting to have that part of you to be recognized. Although, I was never as good as Wes, I understand his need to have his father’s understanding and approval–something I have grappled with most of my life (although with my mom and following the career path she thought was best). Many of the character’s experiences in high school were relatively similar and I loved that connect Suk gave me in her book.
Suk’s writing is engaging and I felt it was a fast read. Although I felt I understood where it was going, I still wanted to be along for the ride! I think that had a lot to do with how well Suk writes characters. The felt real and had time to develop. I found, because of the well written characters, I found myself wanting to read just a little bit more. As I said, you could tell where the story was going, but there was a comfort in that itself. Overall, I will definitely pick up Suk’s next book.
If you enjoy Kasie West, Jessica Pennington, or Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka then I think you’ll enjoy Made in Korea.
One winner will receive a finished copy of Made in Korea. The giveaway will end on May 24th.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js