Cover image for Frankly in love
Frankly in love
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8 audio discs (10 hr.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
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Compact discs.
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High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo. His term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents' traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance, 'Date Korean,' which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful, and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they'll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it's the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy's fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love, or himself, at all.


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An Instant New York Times Bestseller and #1 Indie Bestseller

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving debut novel--featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author--David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Author Notes

DAVID YOON is a writer and designer who created the illustrations for the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Everything, Everything . He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Nicola Yoon, and their energetic daughter. Frankly in Love is his first novel.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Caught in a brawl between romance and family expectations, Frank Li isn't sure which one will knock him out first. His Korean immigrant parents have already disowned his sister for dating a non-Korean, so when Frank falls for a white classmate, he settles on a con. His partner in crime is fellow Korean-American Joy Song, and together they begin a for-their-parents'-eyes relationship that allows them to spend time with their real crushes--but might not be so fake after all. Yoon's debut examines issues of identity through a significant but often-overlooked subset of the Korean diaspora in California: working-class immigrants and their first-generation children. Frank's parents' racism is overtly presented alongside classism, microaggressions, and prejudice that subtly touch all characters. Yoon never settles for stereotypes, instead giving his well-defined characters a diversity of experience, identity, sexuality, and ambition. Told in youthful-sounding prose, Frank's journey reaches beyond Korean-American identity and touches on the common experiences of many children of immigrants, including negotiating language barriers, tradition, and other aspects of what it means to be a "hyphenated" American. Ages 14--up. (Sept.)

Horn Book Review

High school senior Frank Li is the son of two first-generation Korean immigrant parents, and he knows that they have made sacrifices all their lives in order to give him opportunities. Mom-n-Dad work at The Store every day, from morning to evening, on weekends, holidays, New Years Day, 365 days of every year without a single vacation for as long as me and Hanna have been alive. He appreciates this, all while chafing at the binds of their expectations: ace the SATs; get into The Harvard; marry a Korean American girl. The setup of the story is pure romantic comedy: in order to keep his parents from finding out about his romance with white classmate and fellow nerd Brit Means, he fake-dates Joy Song, a girl from his parents Korean circle of friends. An unexpected change in the Lis lives forces Frank to grapple with what it means to really know a person, whether it be Brit, Joy, his best friend Q, or his father. Yoon writes in a lightly funny, self-deprecating, accessible voice; one that sounds like a contemporary teen (Fuckin parents, man) and reveals a deep understanding of bicultural complexities. As the novel faces issues of race and racism, culture, friendship, relationships (Can you truly, truly say you love someone whos always been held at arms length?), and family, Yoon encourages readers to delve into issues of what it means to belongand who in the end we would like to belong to, and with. Christina L. Dobbs January/February 2020 p.99(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Frank Li has always known his parents expected him to date a fellow Korean American. It was an unspoken rule he tried not to think about until he finds himself kissing, texting, and overall obsessing over Brit who's white. To save himself from his parent's disappointment (or outright condemnation) Frank hatches a plan to create a faux relationship with longtime family friend Joy, who has also fallen for a non-Korean. It seems like the perfect plan, at least, for a little while. With Frankly in Love, Yoon has created a story within the well-trod rom-com trope of fake relationships becoming more than a facade that is completely fresh. Frank is a wonderfully self-aware protagonist with a compelling voice that sometimes seems much older than 18 but never in a way that rings false. To say this debut novel is more than a romance would be to malign the genre it is a credit to, but even readers who aren't fans of romance will be drawn into this beautifully written exploration of family, identity, and self-discovery.--Molly Horan Copyright 2019 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Identity, family, secrets, sacrifice, first love, and transitions all come together in Yoon's sparkling debut. Frank Li is one of the "Limbos," a group of second-generation Korean-American children who are forced to hang out once a month when their parents organize dinners that are part support group, part competition. The Limbos are caught between two worlds, a sense Frank keenly feels as he begins dating his first girlfriend, who is white. After his sister is disowned for marrying a Black man, Frank decides to enter a fake relationship with Joy, another Limbo, so that they can both date the people they want without parental involvement. Frank's romantic relationships change along with his relationship with his family, as he grapples with hard family news. This is an outstanding novel where the emotions are deeply felt but honestly earned. The characters are complex and nuanced, and all are on their own authentic journeys. The highlight of the book is Frank's voice--he is a sharp observer who is funny, insecure, and deeply conflicted. Yoon's writing is filled with highly specific descriptions that make Frank's world feel fully realized, from the fruit-named phone chargers sold at his parents' store, to his group of unique and nerdy friends, dubbed the "Apeys" for their Advanced Placement course load. This will be a hit with teens who like introspective realistic fiction, romance, and humor. VERDICT Full of keen observations about love, family, and race with a winning narrator, this is a must-purchase (multiple copies!) for any teen-serving library.--Susannah Goldstein, The Brearley School, New York City

Guardian Review

Frank Li's parents want him to date only Korean girls; his friend Joy Song's parents will never accept her Chinese American boyfriend. But if Joy and Frank pretend to be going out together, both will be free to see non-Korean partners. What could possibly go wrong? A hilarious, acutely observed and profoundly poignant novel about romance, identity and growing up.

Kirkus Review

A senior contends with first love and heartache in this spectacular debut.Sensitive, smart Frank Li is under a lot of pressure. His Korean immigrant parents have toiled ceaselessly, running a convenience store in a mostly black and Latinx Southern California neighborhood, for their children's futures. Frank's older sister fulfilled their parents' dreamsmaking it to Harvardbut when she married a black man, she was disowned. So when Frank falls in love with a white classmate, he concocts a scheme with Joy, the daughter of Korean American family friends, who is secretly seeing a Chinese American boy: Frank and Joy pretend to fall for each other while secretly sneaking around with their real dates. Through rich and complex characterization that rings completely true, the story highlights divisions within the Korean immigrant community and between communities of color in the U.S., cultural rifts separating immigrant parents and American-born teens, and the impact on high school peers of society's entrenched biases. Yoon's light hand with dialogue and deft use of illustrative anecdotes produce a story that illuminates weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on struggles both universal and particular to certain identities. Frank's best friend is black and his white girlfriend's parents are vocal liberals; Yoon's unpacking of the complexity of the racial dynamics at play is impressiveand notably, the novel succeeds equally well as pure romance.A deeply moving account of love in its many forms. (Fiction. 14-adult) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Mom-n-Dad work at The Store every day, from morning to evening, on weekends, holidays, New Year's Day, 365 days out of every year without a single vacation for as long as me and Hanna have been alive.   Mom-n-Dad inherited The Store from an older Korean couple of that first wave who came over in the sixties. No written contracts or anything. Just an introduction from a good friend, then tea, then dinners, and finally many deep bows, culminating in warm, two-handed handshakes. They wanted to make sure The Store was kept in good hands. Good, Korean hands.   The Store is an hour-long drive from the dystopian perfection of my suburban home of Playa Mesa. It's in a poor, sun-crumbled part of Southern California largely populated by Mexican- and African-Americans. A world away.   The poor customers give Mom-n-Dad food stamps, which become money, which becomes college tuition for me.   It's the latest version of the American dream.   I hope the next version of the American dream doesn't involve gouging people for food stamps.   I'm at The Store now. I'm leaning against the counter. Its varnish is worn in the middle like a tree ring, showing the history of every transaction that's ever been slid across its surface: candy and beer and diapers and milk and beer and ice cream and beer and beer.   "At the airport," I once explained to Q, "they hand out title deeds by ethnicity. So the Greeks get diners, the Chinese get laundromats, and the Koreans get liquor stores."   "So that's how America works," said Q, taking a deeply ironic bite of his burrito.   It's hot in The Store. I'm wearing a Hardfloor tee shirt perforated with moth holes in cool black, to match my cool-black utility shorts. Not all blacks are the same. There is warm black and brown black and purple black. My wristbands are a rainbow of blacks. All garments above the ankles must be black. Shoes can be anything, however. Like my caution-yellow sneakers.   Dad refuses to turn on the air-conditioning, because the only things affected by the heat are the chocolate-based candies, and he's already stashed those in the walk-in cooler.   Meanwhile, I'm sweating. I watch a trio of flies trace an endless series of right angles in midair with a nonstop zimzim sound. I snap a photo and post it with the caption: Flies are the only creature named after their main mode of mobility.   It makes no sense that I'm helping Mom-n-Dad at The Store. My whole life they've never let me have a job.   "Study hard, become doctor maybe," Dad would say.   "Or a famous newscaster," Mom would say.   I still don't get that last one.   Anyway: I'm at The Store only one day a week, on Sundays, and only to work the register--no lifting, sorting, cleaning, tagging, or dealing with vendors. Mom's home resting from her morning shift, leaving me and Dad alone for his turn. I suspect all this is Mom's ploy to get me to bond with Dad in my last year before I head off to college. Spend father-n-son time. Engage in deep conversation.   Dad straps on a weight belt and muscles a hand truck loaded with boxes of malt liquor. He looks a bit like a Hobbit, stocky and strong and thick legged, with a box cutter on his belt instead of a velvet sachet of precious coins. He has all his hair still, even in his late forties. To think, he earned a bachelor's degree in Seoul and wound up here. I wonder how many immigrants there are like him, working a blue-collar job while secretly owning a white-collar degree.   He slams his way out of the dark howling maw of the walk-in cooler.   "You eat," he says.   "Okay, Dad," I say.   "You go taco. Next door. Money, here."   He hands me a twenty.   "Okay, Dad."   I say Okay, Dad a lot to Dad. It doesn't get much deeper than that for the most part. For the most part, it can't. Dad's English isn't great, and my Korean is almost nonexistent. I grew up on video games and indie films, and Dad grew up on I-don't-know-what.   I used to ask him about his childhood. Or about basic things, like how he was able to afford a luxury like college. He grew up poor, after all, poorer than poor. Both my parents did, before Korea's economic supernova in the late eighties. Dad said he would go fishing for river crabs when food ran low. Lots of people in the sticks did.   "Tiny crabby, they all crawling inside my net," he told me. "All crawling crawling crawling over each other, they step-ping on each other face, try to get on top."   "Okay," I said.   "That's Korea," he said.   When I asked him what that meant, he just closed the conversation with:   "Anyway America better. Better you going college here, learn English. More opportunity."   That's his checkmate move for most conversations, even ones that start out innocently enough like, How come we never kept up with speaking Korean in the house? or Why do old Korean dudes worship Chivas Regal?   So for the most part, he and I have made a habit of leaving things at Okay, Dad.   "Okay, Dad," I say.   I grab my phone and step into the even hotter heat outside. Corrido music is bombarding the empty parking lot from the carnicería next door. The music is meant to convey festivity, to entice customers inside. It's not working.   ¡Party Today!   Buzz-buzz. It's Q.   Pip pip, old chap, let's go up to LA. It's free museum night. Bunch of us are going.   Deepest regrets, old bean, I say. Got a Gathering.   I shall miss your companionship, fine sir, says Q.   And I yours, my good man.   Q knows what I mean when I say Gathering .   I'm talking about a gathering of five families, which sounds like a mafia thing but really is just Mom-n-Dad's friends getting together for a rotating house dinner.   It's an event that's simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary: ordinary in that hey, it's just dinner, but extraordinary in that all five couples met at university in Seoul, became friends, moved to Southern California together to start new lives, and have managed to see each other and their families every month literally for decades.   The day ends. Dad changes shirts, trading his shop owner persona for a more Gathering-appropriate one: a new heather-gray polo that exudes success and prosperity. We lock up, turn out the lights. Then we drive forty minutes to the Kims'. It's the Kim family's turn to host the Gathering this time, and they've gone all out: a Brazilian barbecue carving station manned by real Brazilians drilling everyone on the word of the night (chu*rra*sca*ri*a), plus a wine-tasting station, plus a seventy-inch television in the great room with brand-new VR headsets for the little kids to play ocean explorer with.   It all screams: We're doing great in America. How about you?   Included among these totems of success are the children themselves, especially us older kids. We were all born pretty much at the same time. We're all in the same year in school. We are talked and talked about, like minor celebrities. So-and-so made academic pentathlon team captain. So-and-so got valedictorian.   Being a totem is a tiresome role, and so we hide away in the game room or wherever while outside, the littler kids run amok and the adults get drunk and sing twenty-year-old Ko-rean pop songs that none of us understand. In this way we have gradually formed the strangest of friendships: *             We only sit together like this for four hours once a month. *             We never leave the room during this time, except for food. *             We never hang out outside the Gatherings.   The Gatherings are a world unto themselves. Each one is a version of Korea forever trapped in a bubble of amber--the early-nineties Korea that Mom-n-Dad and the rest of their friends brought over to the States years ago after the bubble burst. Meanwhile, the Koreans in Korea have moved on, become more affluent, more savvy. Meanwhile, just outside the Kims' front door, American kids are dance-gaming to K-pop on their big-screens.   But inside the Gathering, time freezes for a few hours. We children are here only because of our parents, after all. Would we normally hang out otherwise? Probably not. But we can't exactly sit around ignoring each other, because that would be boring. So we jibber-jabber and philosophize until it's time to leave. Then we are released back into the reality awaiting us outside the Gathering, where time unfreezes and resumes. Excerpted from Frankly in Love by David Yoon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.