Cover Image: Fireworks


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Fireworks is a YA K-pop romcom by Alice Lin. Released 7th June 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Children's imprint, it's 320 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

This is an engaging and well written role reversed teenaged Notting Hill redux. There's lots of angst and feelings and a diverting young romance. It's aimed at a young audience (circa 12-17 years old, presumably female) and despite the page count is a very quick read. Lots of info about K-pop and the music fandom included for verisimilitude.

It's not clear from any publisher promotional materials provided for review if the author plans a follow-up book. If the story isn't to be continued, readers might want to be aware that the ending is abrupt and there's no epilogue or clear resolution in the advance copy provided. Good story, precipitate ending.

Three and a half stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Lately, my brain has only been able to handle romance or lighter books; when my audiobook hold came available for FIREWORKS by Alice Lin (one of my #Netgalley backlists - whoops!), I figured my kerfuffled brain might enjoy YA romance might right now as well. 🧠

FIREWORKS would be a great read for those that enjoy friends-to-lovers, K-pop drama, and sweet YA stories. Lulu and Kite were best friends growing up - until he moved away and started an international K-pop career and starring in the hottest new boy group, Carnival. However, when we mysteriously shows up back home, can they pick up their friendship?

This was just such a sweet book - and, while it was my first foray into K-pop, it did such a good job at tackling issues surrounding mental health, fandom, and fame. There are fun side characters, some family drama, and some cultural education!
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I'm always in for a book that has a k-pop premise, but I feel like we didn't get a whole lot of interaction between the two main characters. The conflicts weren't also strong enough for me to be truly invested, but whatever romance we got I enjoyed reading.
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I have really been enjoying these books that dip into the k-pop world, despite not actually listening to k-pop. There's something fun about feeling behind the scenes, and this book satisfies some of that feeling.
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My Thoughts:

If you liked Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho or XOXO  by Axie Oh, you are going to devour Fireworks by Alice Lin. 

The protagonist, Lulu Li has her whole summer planned out before she and her friends go away to college, but her plans are disrupted when her neighbor, Kai, now a K-Pop star with the group Karnaval secretly comes home to "rest and recover."  Kai and Lulu were best friends but when he was whisked away in 8th grade to South Korea to become a singer and songwriter in the K-Pop factory, he has not tried to contact Lulu in four years, so their relationship is awkward and non existent.

Except that there is a neighborhood cat that plays his own version of Shakespeare's Puck, both narrator and trickster at the same time. 

What I appreciated in this romcom is that the characters are Chinese American, even if Kai or Kite is a K-Pop star. In other words, not all Asians are the same and many Asian Americans keep their food traditions alive but not their langugage.

What I am lukewarm about is that Ms. Lin inserted an LGBTQ+ main character because Lulu is bi. Now if there were a love triangle, that would be one thing, but without it, the fact that Lulu is bi just feels like a way to check off another diversity box. It does not add to the story or make it more interesting because it seems like a throwaway fact.

The mental health and extreme fan behavior are much more interesting so I like that Lin included that. Either way, read it. 

From the Publisher:
Seventeen-year-old Lulu Li has her last summer before college all planned out. But her plans go awry when she learns that Kite Xu, her old next-door neighbor and childhood friend, will be returning home from South Korea.
Lulu hasn’t seen Kite since eighth grade, after he left the country to pursue a career in K-pop, eventually debuting in the boy group Karnival. When Karnival announces that Kite will be taking a break from K-pop activities for mysterious reasons, the opportunity to rekindle their friendship arises.
Star-struck and nostalgic, Lulu tries to reconnect with Kite. As they continue to bond and reminisce over the past, Kite’s sister, Connie, warns Lulu not to get too close to her brother. The harder Lulu tries to deny her feelings, the stronger they get. But how could a K-pop star ever fall for a nobody from home? And even if he did, is there any way for their relationship to end but badly?

Publication Information:

Author: Alice Lin
Publisher: Underlined
Publication date: June 7, 2022
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Such a cute book for k-pop fans. I would love to have this in my school library because so many students would really enjoy this sweet book.
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I really thought I would love this book more than I did - so many tropes that I'm drawn to in one YA novel, it seemed like a recipe for success. But I left the book feeling dissatisfied and couldn't identify exactly why. Tropes include famous person/normal person and childhood friends to lovers. It's more of a long lost childhood friends as the MMC went to Korea to become a Kpop star and has recently returned to his childhood home - next door to our FMC. 

I think the major issue I took with this book was that I didn't buy the romance. It was very understated and there wasn't any background given to provide evidence that the two characters held a torch for each other for years. There was also none of the tension that I normally associate with YA contemporary romances and look for.

Some positives were the Kpop and Korean representation, the struggle the FMC had with her bio father and his new family, the mental health concerns our MMC dealt with, and the LGBTQ representation. 

**Thank you to Underlined and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review**
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Thank you to @netgalley and @randomhouse for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  Thank you to @prhaudio for a free download of the audiobook.  

At a young age Kite Xu left his family to join a K-pop group in South Korea.  He’s taking a break and has returned home, causing a disruption to his neighbor Lulu’s summer before heading off to college.

While Kite’s return home needs to be kept secret, this gave Lulu the opportunity to get reacquainted with Kite and learn why he’s really taking a break.  She learns that life isn’t as great as Karnival’s social media pages seem.  Feelings begin to develop as they go around San Francisco in disguises.  Kite starts to relax and work through his part of the issues until a video of him punching the lead singer is released…then he is spotted taking his cat to the vet after being hit by a car.  Kite has to go into hiding with Lulu and her friends.  

I loved the characters, all the K-pop references, the friendships, and the romance.  An epilogue would have been nice to better wrap things up based on the events of the last few chapters. If you love YA and the childhood friends-to-lovers trope, I recommend this book.

4 stars
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Fireworks is the newest addition to KPop infused fiction for Teens.  A light and fun Rom-Com about childhood friends who reunite and fall for each other.  Give this to fans of XOXO and I'll be the One.
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I don’t remember where I saw this book.  I think that I was scrolling through Netgalley when I can across it.  I am a sucker for K-Pop. I enjoy listening to it and I love K-Pop romance books.  I thoroughly enjoy them.  So when I saw this one I knew that I needed to request it.  I was excited when I eventually got approval confirmation for it.  

Lulu is a huge fan of K-Pop, specifically Karnival.  Her old best friend and neighbor is a singer in that boy band. She is blown away when she finds out that her friend Kai/Kite is coming home for some medical rest.  She runs into him one night when out for a late-night walk.  They seemingly pick up right where they left off 4 years prior.  Except for this time sparks seem to fly between them.  While I really enjoyed this book it felt like a massive soap opera for YA.  It was the constant will they won’t they but the main character is bi, which I don’t really understand how that plays into the story but it apparently does, somehow I still haven’t figured it out yet.  I did love the idea of the book.  Drama happens with a K-Pop group and he moves back home and falls for his old friend. It just needed to be written a little differently.  There was just too much hesitation and stuff like that from Lulu’s side, and that just got on my nerves. 

Lulu’s two best friends were funny and kind of gave the book some comic relief.  However, their K-pop obsession was a bit much.  In that defense, I know that K-Pop fans are a little bit like that anyway.  It just seemed exaggerated.  At the end of the book, I really would have liked an epilogue of some sort.  I needed to know if things worked out for them in the long run.  Did Lulu get the study abroad that she wanted in Korea?  Did things work out for Kite in his Karnival group? I needed more of a follow-up it just felt really rushed.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t think that it was the most amazing thing that I have read all month, it just was meh.  It wasn’t the first K-Pop book I have read either so I am not exactly completely oblivious to the scene.  Don’t read what I have said and not read this book, read it and make your own decision about it.
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3.5/5 stars (rounded to 3) 

I received an ARC of this book, and I am voluntarily leaving an honest review. 

Lulu has her last summer at home planned out. Before she heads to college, she wants to spend as much time with her friends as possible. But those plans go slightly awry when her childhood best friend returns home for the summer. Kai, now the kpop idol known as Kite, hasn't spoken to Lulu since his debut. The two start to spend more time together, leaving Lulu wondering what to do about her new feelings for him. After all, he's famous and she's just his old childhood friend. Not to mention, he'll return to Korea soon enough... 

I enjoyed a lot of things about this book! Unfortunately, there were a few things that kept this from being a 5-star read for me. 

The first half of this book was my favorite. I loved Lulu and her friends! They felt authentic, and I enjoyed their scenes together. Kite was also a likable character from the get-go, and his dynamic with Lulu was so cute! 

The second half of this book was not quite as enjoyable for me. This book started out light-hearted, but the second part got heavier. While I appreciated the author's portrayal of the kpop industry, including its flaws, I wish we had more positive scenes before the rather abrupt ending. I also disagreed with the actions of a certain character towards the end, and it seemed somewhat out of character for them. 

Overall, I loved the characters, all the kpop references, the friendships, and the romance. I do think this book could have definitely benefitted from an epilogue to better wrap things up, especially after the events of the last few chapters, but if you love YA kpop books and the childhood friends-to-lovers trope, you might really enjoy this!
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Who doesn't live for best friends who lose each other but still find their way back? Add in a touch of Kpop Drama and some really amazing besties and you have yourself a five star read. 

Light and fluffy Fireworks is the best way to end the summer holiday. The writing was fun and the characters even better
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This was a cute romance!
Boy and girl next door neighbors and friends as children. 
Boy goes to Korea to become a famous kpop star.
Boy comes home and romance sparks…

Anyways, a cute short read! Will I remember it in 4 years from now? Maybe. But it did the job.
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This was an enjoyable and light-hearted read. I am not a fan of K-Pop, or else I would have definitely enjoyed this a lot, lot more. The representation of AAPI and LGTBQ+ was really well written, and those were definitely some of the highlights of reading this book for me. <3  Kite and Lulu were both likable characters. I liked how they reconnected after being apart from each other. One of my favorite parts was the portrayal of fame in the storyline - it was really intriguing to see the story take different turns because of that aspect. 

I felt like the pacing of Fireworks was a bit off though. I am still kinda sad about that abrupt ending - I was wishing for a different outcome. 

Many thanks to the publisher for approving me to read this one early. <3
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This was such a fun YA! I loved the representation in this book; the AAPI representation of the main characters, Lulu was bi, and there were good discussions of mental health. I enjoyed Kite and Lulu’s romance, though I did find it weird that she called him Kite after he got back and not Kai. I liked the knew each other when they were young, moved apart, and suddenly back in each other’s lives and romance trope that was in this book but liked the twist of Kite being a K-Pop star. Kite’s sudden withdrawal in the book after the social media storm seemed unnecessary to me, especially for how long it lasted. I feel like it would have made sense to withdraw for a few days. I did like the discussion of unrealistic expectations fans have for their idols and the pressure they face on a daily basis. I also enjoyed the social media or text messages that ended each chapter. The author included the perfect amount and made the endings of the chapters more fun. 

My biggest issue with this book was the ending. I felt like it ended very abruptly. If there isn’t going to be a sequel to this I feel like an epilogue should have been included. I would have liked to see how Kite and Lulu’s long distance relationship went. 

Overall, I did really like this and look forward to reading future work from Alice Lin. This was a strong 3.75 for me. 

Thank you to Random House Children's, Underline and NetGalley for an copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.
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While I adore K-pop and consider myself a hard stan, I didn’t really enjoy my time reading Fireworks. I found the ending to be rushed and unfulfilling.  To keep it short, I enjoyed the culture shown and all of the K-pop terms and references. However, that’s where it ends. The characters were one dimensional and their communication led to problems that they didn’t even need. I know I'm not the target audience, but this wasn’t for me.
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Oh boy, where do I start? This was a pure, sweet as candy treat that I thoroughly enjoyed. The characters are vibrant and relatable (even with Kite's K-pop heartthrob status). I enjoyed that this book didn't center on the K-pop industry itself, but more on Lulu and Kite's friendship. This book has big Once Upon a K-Prom vibes, but Fireworks edges it out because there are no over the top, crazy situations. Just two old friends catching up after years apart, each working through their own personal problems.

If you're a fan of K-pop and cotton candy sweet romances, this is the book for you.
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Lulu has a whole itinerary planned for her last summer before college, a summer of endless sunny days spent traveling and hanging out with her best friends. But, when she learns that Kite, the boy-next-door and former friend, is returning home from South Korea, all her plans are thrown into disarray. Kite has been away for four years training to be a K-pop idol and ghosting Lulu and their friendship, so Lulu’s not sure what to expect from his sudden return.

Fireworks is a fun K-drama featuring a friends-to-lovers romance that’s sure to delight K-pop fans. The first half of the book is so well-written with awkward first meetings and the rekindling of old feelings. The book moves at a decent pace and keeps readers interested in the drama developing between Lulu and Kite and questioning the reason for Kite’s sudden trip home. The second half of the book sees the pacing speed up with a sudden social media outbreak of why Kite is back in the States and the discord that’s developed between him and his bandmates. 

While I definitely enjoyed Lulu and Kite’s developing friendship/romance, Kite’s sudden withdrawal from Lulu in the wake of his social media outing and his cold shoulder attitude seemed unjustified to me — though I did appreciate the discussion on the unreasonable expectations fans have for their idols and the pressure idols face on a daily basis. The book also ends abruptly. I would have liked to see a glimpse of Kite and Lulu’s long distance relationship. 

Overall, I did enjoy Fireworks! It’s definitely going on my list of K-pop/K-drama YA books that I recommend to teens.
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Thank you so much to the author, Random House Children's, and NetGalley for the complimentary ARC!
This review contains my honest and unbiased thoughts and opinions. 🌸

I have recently discovered k-dramas and even a little k-pop so this book definitely caught my attention and sounded interesting. 

The book is a super cute romance, I always enjoy the whole "knew each other when young, moved apart and suddenly back in each other's lives and romance blooms" plus adding in the k-pop fandom was fun. The social media/message board posts were a fun addition, I love when little things like that are included sporadically. It can be overdone but the author had just the right amount mixed in. 

The MC, Lulu, is just finishing up school, getting ready for prom and has her entire summer planned out. She did anyways, until her boyfriend broke things off and her mom surprises her with news of inviting friends to stay for the summer.... including Lulu's childhood guy friend who is now part of a k-pop group. 
Let the fun begin!
The book starts with the typical guy breaks up with girl, girl and guy are total opposites and girl decides she absolutely must win him back and the best way to do that is completely change who she is and like everything he likes and she doesn't. There's a girl crush moment added to the mix and of course the childhood guy friend that's now going to spend summer with her. 

The romance was cute and loved the inclusion of the chaotic side of fame and being part of a boy band and what's behind the scenes.

The book was cute and kept my attention even if slightly predictable and rushed towards the end. The ending definitely left things a bit wide open and left me wanting... more? a slightly more wrapped up ending? I'm not sure.
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As her senior year draws to a close, Lulu learns that her childhood best friend, and current K-pop star, Kite (Kai) will be returning home for the summer. She hasn't seen him in four years, but growing up, these neighbors were inseparable. What will things be like? Will they spend time together again?

This childhood friends-to-lovers, celebrity romance captures the feelings of reconnecting with someone who used to be integral to your day-to-day experience and the sense of things shifting and changing as one leaves high school and prepares for college.

I appreciated how the author addressed the mental health aspects and stress of celebrity, not just the pressure put on Kai as part of a K-pop group, but also the obsession of and invasion of privacy by some of the super fans.

Read this one for the supportive friendships, the stray neighborhood cat, and the feelings of first love.

Representation: AAPI, LGBTQ+ (Bi MC), mental health

Heat level: Kissing only

CW: divorced parents, infidelity, strained familial relationships, invasion of privacy, underage drinking

I received an advance copy from Random House Children's, Underlined, and NetGalley. Review opinions are my own.
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