Over the summer, students and faculty of the high school were required to read David Yoon’s Frankly in Love, a book that sparked conversation amongst Grace students regarding the author’s ability to relate to his teenage audience. The teenage rom-com novel received mixed reviews from Grace students — with opinions ranging from loving the book to hating it.
Frankly in Love depicts the life of teenager Frank Li and his high school experience as a Korean-American living in Southern California. As he and his friends explore familial and romantic relationships, they learn more about their own identities, how they want to interact with the world, and about the people that surround them. Li is constantly attempting to live up to the high expectations set for him by his parents. One of these expectations includes dating a Korean girl, which Li fulfills by “fake dating” one of his oldest childhood friends, Joy Song, in order to cover up the fact that he is actually in love with a white girl, Brit Means. This complex love affair takes an unexpected turn as he watches his father come within seconds of dying due to a shooting within their family store. Although these cinematic portrayals may seem captivating, many students felt that the book lacked relatability and accuracy.
The portrayal of the act of coming out within Frankly in Love was particularly criticized by the students at Grace for inaccurately illustrating such a serious obstacle as nonchalant. Antonia King ‘24 claimed, “Q [Li’s best friend] coming out as gay was the least realistic representation of coming out because it was somewhat simple and straightforward.”
In an attempt to make the book less serious and more lighthearted, Yoon may have underestimated the adversity and struggles associated with coming out. The simplicity of Q’s coming out scene can be quite problematic as portrayals like this invalidate hardships and create an inaccurate expectation of what coming out should look like.
In addition to this, many students believed that Li’s narration was disinteresting and somewhat bothersome. Mikail Oflaz ‘25 asserted that the storyline was “all over the place.” While the book is certainly fast paced, many believed that aspects of the book were confusing and led to plotholes. Concerningly, most could not see their emotions and experiences as teenagers reflected on the pages.
This unrelatability is present in many books based on a teenage narrative, which quickly disengages a teenage reader as they fail to connect with the voice of the narrator.
A minority of students interviewed by the Gazette, however, felt like the book was the perfect summer read.
“It was an interesting, breezy read for the summer,” said Penny Arnaboldi ‘24.
Others, like Marni Arons ‘24, believed the fast-paced nature of the story “felt like watching a movie.” Though there were certainly positive reviews, Grace students’ overall consensus of the book seems to be largely negative. With this amount of negative feedback, one might wonder why Grace hasn’t implemented some sort of system that allows students to vote on their own summer reading books. A faculty of adults choosing “relatable” books for teens creates room for tremendous disconnect and unrelatability within the High School curriculum. Choosing summer reading books that are agreed upon by a majority of students would increase the general engagement and appreciation for summer reading considerably. Will students get a say in what we truly want to read? Or will we continue to read these required books that misrepresent our experiences and stories?