Can we just take a moment to appreciate the dual cover design concept? Don’t like one side? Flip it around and you’ll get something completely different! Okay, enough of that. Let’s begin!
Two years ago, Bright’s sister book, Shine was released two days after my birthday on September 29th, 2020. I’m not sure I’d call Shine a prequel, because it was intentionally published first. Whatever the lingo is, I read the first fifty pages and later posted my initial thoughts about the book in this post. In an effort to remain completely honest and open about my reading experiences, I didn’t fully read Shine until last week. More precisely, the day before I ordered Bright from Barnes & Noble.
The week prior, I noticed my original post was getting a lot – and I mean a LOT – of new views. In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about a second book. Last I had heard, the plans for Bright were merely rumors on sites like Koreaboo. Between May 10th and May 14th of this year, my mini review of Shine saw an unprecedented 173 unique reads. As it turns out, Bright was published on May 10th of this year. All it took was a little internet digging for my mind’s “light bulb” to turn on.
Naturally, I had to read it. From 2006 until roughly 2012, you couldn’t get me to listen to anything BUT Girls’ Generation. Even though I’m not one who has ever been able to bring myself to follow to Korean pop’s “idol culture,” I did have a difficult time with the group’s transition from ot9 to ot8. I wholeheartedly believe that’s why it took me so long to fully read Shine, because I wasn’t sure, even in 2020, I’d be able to sort fact from fiction.
As an older kpop fan (I’ll be 37 in September), I think I’ve got a unique insight into what America was like before Girls’ Generation hit the stage with The Boys in 2012. Ironically, 2012 was also the year the first KCon took place in California. Kpop, just a mere ten years ago, was still a novel concept. I, however, got through college binging Girls’ Generation and SHINee and EXO music videos. Then there’s KARA, f(x) and 2NE1 and 2PM. So I already knew a bit of what can happen “behind the scenes” in the Korean music industry before Jessica Jung’s official split from Girls’ Generation.
Splits, sub groups and disbandments are nothing new. However, as a casual listener of this particular group, it still hit rather hard. Especially after seeing 2NE1, KARA and seemingly every other girl group go through it. Now that all these introductions into my knowledge of kpop, Girls’ Generation, and Jessica Jung herself, let’s take a look at my thoughts on her newest book, Bright.
My Initial Thoughts from the First Fifty Pages
“Rachel’s story has always been about what it means to dream big and shine bright, and to live and love in the spotlight, so it feels right to see her finally come to life in this new artwork,”source
If you’ve spent any time in the writing community world, you’ll know that the first fifty pages of any written work are very important. If an agent wants to read more of your book just from the synopsis you provided them in your initial query, they can request anything from your first fifty pages, to a partial, to a full manuscript.
The first fifty pages often provide just enough information on how the rest of the book is going to go, everything from initial plot points to the author’s writing style and character introductions. By the end of the first fifty pages of Bright, I gotta admit: I was bored.
I don’t know if it was because this was written for a young adult audience, but the story just hasn’t provided me with that “hook” to keep on reading. There are also several pretty predictable and scenes any kpop fan would recognize. But Bright is, as Jessica says in multiple interviews, based off her life. So I was not surprised by this at all. Let’s take a look now at some of the parallels present in the first fifty pages.
“Bright” includes more of Rachel’s sister
Leah is definitely a reflection of my little sister, and my sister picked her own name, by the way. She was like, “I want to be Leah.” And I really wanted to portray our relationship in the book accurately, so I hope the readers enjoy that.source
Anyone familiar with Shine would know this to be true. Written in the style of a Korean drama episode, Jessica put in many elements that was the same as herself, such as her avid dislike of cucumbers.
However, if she, and I quote, “never wanted to write an autobiography or a tell-all story,” then maybe she shouldn’t have had her girl group have nine members. Or had her main character’s sister in a five member girl group. Or be American born? If you’re a fan of Girls’ Generation, or even no longer a fan of kpop after being involved in it for years, then those character traits would most definitely recognize them. Let’s take a look at some lines and my thoughts on those lines.
In real life, Krystal is Jessica’s sister and a member of GGs sister group, f(x). I don’t know much about how deep rivalries can get from group to group, but it seems as though there’s already some strive between the fictional Girls Forever and SayGo. As with Shine, I couldn’t quite handle the constant comments from Mina, nor the “everyone is against me” attitude from Rachel.
Some Lines and Thoughts – Spoilers ahead!
“The ballroom is filled with familiar DB faces and hosts of new people I’ve never met before, all of them eager to greet me.” – page 8. While I can’t deny that praise is showered upon kpop favorites, this part of the story just seemed a bit…cringe to me. Throughout any kpop idol’s career, I don’t doubt they’ll have moments like this. Where there’s the glittering ballroom facade and the equally depressing facts of how their group is managed by their entertainment company. Entertainment has become one of South Korea’s biggest “exports,” so it’s absolutely no surprise to me Bright contains scenes such as this.
“I roll my eyes at his cheesy dad joke but hold up my champagne flute. ‘To the next heartthrob of Hallyu.’” – page 14. In Shine, the only individuals who really supported Rachel’s journey into the kpop world were Leah and their father, who was on his own journey throughout the novel as well. The term “Hallyu” really gained popularity in the early 2000s, and the term became more widely used with the first KCON that took place out in California in 2012. (Fun fact: Girls’ Generation performed during the Cali KCON in 2014. f(x) performed the year before them in 2013).
“The CIA should hire +EVER to work for them. Our fans’ tracking skills are seriously on another level.” – page 15. This line made me chuckle, because it’s true. Idol fans know how to search up information, track, and report on their favorite performers. If anything’s out of the norm during a performance, fans know immediately. But there’s a dark side to this kind of fandom. That’s an article for another day. It amuses me that Jessica acknowledges this, as I’m sure she also knows her own fans, who are named Golden Stars, are always on the lookout for Jessica sightings and news of new music. Let’s face it – I didn’t find out about a possible GG release this year from SM Entertainment. Nope. I found out via YouTube comment sections on old GG videos. I do have to wonder if any fan from any group’s fan base did become an informant in an official capacity…hmm…
“While some of the girls, like Sun, are clearly rooting for me, I can tell others are torn between hoping he’ll say no, because they’re jealous of the trip, and hoping he’ll say yes, because of what it could mean for them going forward.” – page 27. Very early on we get hints of what may have led to the rift between Jessica and GGs members. I mean, Rachel and Girls Forever. This line is how I know Sunhee represents Sunny. I remember watching the world tour when they were first ot8 and saw Sunny’s emotions break down at a certain point. Every kpop group goes through their own “growing pains,” so something like this with GG was inevitable. “[…] and hoping he’ll say yes, because of what it could mean for them going forward.” GG didn’t see any subgroups but TTS until later in their career, and only a couple of them had solos as that point. We later saw Tiffany, Taeyeon and Hyoyeon have solo releases. All of that is planned to the T, because of how the public may receive the change. No matter who gets to experience that “break,” I’m sure there’s always a little bit of jealousy. How can there not be in a group of nine girls?
“There’s star-shaped confetti and party music, and MC Yang hands us a big trophy with a number one on it. The whole thing is kind of ridiculous but I swear it feels almost as sweet as the first time Girls Forever won Artist of the Year at RARA.” – page 37. Okay, I had to have another laugh at RARA, which is clearly Jessica’s choice of acronym to replace MAMA. Since Shine, we’ve fast forwarded about four or five years into Girls Forever’s journey as a group. Some things have changed, and some – like certain members’ attitudes – have not. A sign of things to come? Perhaps.
Here’s Who I Think Each of the Band Mates Are of Girls Forever
Yoona – Sumin
Taeyeon – Lizzie
Jessica – Rachel (of course)
Seohyun – Youngeun
Sooyoung – Mina
Tiffany – Eunji
Hyoyeon – Jiyoun
Yuri – Ari
Sunny – Sunhee
“But Jung says it’s up to the reader to decide the line between fact and fiction. “It’s going to be like an Easter egg hunt,” she tells TIME. “Looking for clues and who’s who, what’s what, what’s true, what’s not.”source
As much as I tried to keep myself from doing so, I was utterly tempted to find these so-called Easter eggs for myself. In fact, I had at least fifteen post-it notes stuck to the pages of my book before I realized it. No matter what book you’re reading – for enjoyment or reviewing purposes – it can be very hard to separate yourself from what you know about the subject matter and the author. I cannot deny the amount of work Jessica put into both Shine and Bright. She’s not the type to not complete what she sets out to do.
No matter who the author is, I always try to keep an open mind when it comes to their writing style and the story itself. You won’t absolutely love everything an author puts out, especially if they’ve been in the biz for a long time.
I will admit that I prefer reading the genres of historical adventures, mysteries, fairy tale retellings, and science fiction. I’m not used to stories set in the modern era, and went into this read knowing full well who it was by, and what time period it’s set in.
As a fan of old school kpop, I have to say I was disappointed in Rachel’s character. Jessica created so much strife around her that no matter what choices she made by the end of page fifty, I couldn’t find a connection to her. Even though there are instances where Rachel wants to include Girls Forever in her activities, she seemed very…all about herself. Very…self serving.
Of course, we will never truly know what transpired between Jessica and the rest of Girls’ Generation, but I am happy that she seems to be making her own way without ot9. And now, with the rumor of a return for Girls’ Generation ot8, I have to wonder how the Ice Princess’ book, Bright, will affect the interviews and reality shows and music banks.
It’s been a while since either party from Girls’ Generation has released music, and I look forward to the day we can jam along with both again. If the rumors are true, it may happen sooner than we think! In the meantime, enjoy some tunes in the videos linked below. I’ll leave it entirely up to you, if you’d like to indulge in Shine and Bright or not.
I wish nothing but success for both Jessica and Girls’ Generation. Who knows? Perhaps one day they’ll reunite. And wouldn’t just that rock the kpop world?