Cover Image: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

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I confess: I fell face-first into K-Pop fandom during lockdown. These days, I am especially interested in the machinations of the industry: from the management companies' marketing strategies to the trainee process and the organization of new groups. Gorgeous Gruesome Faces plays into the darker side of the industry, with a focus on a trainee audition process and the intense expectations on idol hopefuls, from the grueling practice schedules and pressure to fit a very specific beauty standard. This striving for superhuman perfection pairs with the folk horror elements of the book. The book is a fast read, but I was surprised how quickly the supernatural elements outpaced the industry insights.

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This book unfolds in such a fun way. The reader is presented with Sunny Lee and Candence, two young ladies who in a previous life were part of a threesome girl group. Yet when one of their members dies the girls lose touch, only to be reconnected through and tv show promising to help young ladies break into the difficult world of K Pop music. Yet when things on set start to go wrong Sunny is forced to face the dark past that tore her and Candence apart. Will they be able to make up and help stop all the deaths that seem to be plaguing this show?
Overall, this is a very interesting book. The utilization of the past and the present unfolds the story in such a way that the reader never quite knows what is going to be revealed. Lovely job keeping the twists under wraps. I truly was not expecting how the story would play out. I am interested to see if both Sunny and Candice’s story continues outside of this book.
Thank you so much to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Roaring Brook Press, and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this title.

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4.5 stars rounded up!

I went into this ARC expecting to love it, and it absolutely exceeded my expectations!

Sunny Lee is a former celebrity, having been ⅓ of the teen pop group Sweet Cadence, alongside her best friends Candie and Mina. However, life isn’t as glamorous for her as it once was. After Mina’s tragic death and her subsequent falling out with Candie, Sunny steps out of the limelight, wallowing in her self-pity. Two years pass, and Sunny discovers Candie is attending a K-pop workshop. Determined to reunite with Candie and discover the truth behind Mina’s death, Sunny follows along. But once she arrives, she begins to realize that things aren’t quite what they seem, and the secrets Candie and Sunny kept may come back to haunt them.

There is something about this book’s atmosphere that is so compelling. The confusing layout of the building, the days blending together, and the ghosts lurking in the background all came together in the most beautifully horrifying way. Gorgeous Gruesome Faces has been compared to the likes of Yellowjackets and Perfect Blue, and I agree completely. There’s so much unexplained that it feels like you’re going insane along with Sunny.
I also really enjoyed the talk of what it’s like to be a celebrity and how it feels to be in the public eye. I found lots of the descriptions of celebrity life for Sunny to be very true to life, especially the scandals. There were definitely some comparisons to draw between the scrutiny of an idol’s life and a certain mysterious character in the novel.
There are some moments of a sapphic romance in this book, but I feel it could have been more featured. I imagine we’ll see more of this romance in book two though!
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Publishing for this ARC!

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GORGEOUS GRUESOME FACES was a wonderfully paced gem of a thriller. Cheng captures the intensity of adolescent female friendships and the pressure the succeed with stunning prose. While I wish there was a bit more time spent on the magic aspect of the book, the entire story is clearly crafted with care.

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A fun, scary, suspenseful horror thriller! It was engaging throughout, and the last 20 percent or so was full of twists and revelations. Although it wrapped up nicely and is a self-contained story, I’m really looking forward to book 2! I loved its depiction of fame and its toxic aspects, like unrealistic beauty standards, misogyny, and vicious and invasive fans whose access to performers is increased by social media. I also thought the relationships between characters (especially the Sweet Cadence trio’s friendship, Sunny and Eugenia's enemies to allies relationship, who Faye ended up being, and the romance) were strong and well-developed. A fabulous girl-centric horror/thriller!

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SPOILERS:

Honestly, I thought this book would have been much better without the supernatural aspect involved. It could have been a more compelling story if the incidents had bern caused by a jealous rival. Also, the much-touted sapphic love interest was barely present. I did enjoy the criticism of the idol industry, but overall it wasn't for me.

Thank you to.NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunny was on top of the world starring in a teen pop group with her friends Candie and Mia. They’re inseparable until a scandal breaks down and tears them apart. Shortly after, Mia dies in front of Sunny and Candie.

Now a few years later, Sunny has been longing for what she lost so she enters into a contest. She is shocked to learn that Candie is also participating in the workshop. As the lines between fantasy and reality start to blur right in front of Sunny’s eyes, bodies of the other contestants start to show up maimed and mutilated on set. In order to survive, Sunny will have to expose the ugly secrets behind the workshops closed doors.

This was a dark and disturbing YA thriller that I immediately wanted to read after seeing the cover. It was mentioned as being Yellowjackets meets She Is a Haunting I agree. The pacing was quick, and it held my interest, and I didn’t want to put it down. Sunday was such a likeable unlikeable character. She was everything I think of when I think of a groupie or a follower, but she was the main character in this book. The relationship between Sunny and Candie was alright, but for me it lacked some of the key things I think of when thinking of romance. I think for there to be romance you need a deeper connection and theirs just felt very superficial and codependent. The tension in this book was well done and enjoyable. The horror elements were so disturbing, but not too much.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Roaring Brook Press, and Netgalley @netgalley for this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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A fresh spin on the k-pop novel boom, this is a welcome queer narrative with a healthy dose of uncanny valley horror. Once I sunk my teeth into this one, I knew I wasn't setting my phone down until I was finished.

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Gorgeous Gruesome Faces
4/5
Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Netgalley!

Once I saw this novel compared to Yellowjackets, Suspiria, and Perfect Blue (some of my absolute favs) I KNEW I had to read it.

I haven’t been loving many YA books lately but this one really stuck out to me. It was dark and disturbing and yet still fun and fast-paced. From the very beginning it kept my attention with its gorgeous (and gruesome ;) ) imagery. I loved the unique premise of this novel and found the lack of tropeyness refreshing.

I cannot wait for the next one!!

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Gorgeous Gruesome Faces is an incredible name for a book. I immediately wanted to read it. I have a special list of books called "Let Girls Go Feral" and some of my favorite books fall into that category. Obviously this book is going straight on that list. I love an unhinged main character, what can I say? This book checked all my boxes. I couldn't put it down.

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I was sold when I was told this was like “Yellowjackets meets She Is a Haunting” as I enjoyed both of those mediums. This was a strong thriller going on and I enjoyed the use of K-Pop competition. The characters felt like they belonged in the world and I enjoyed getting to know them. Linda Cheng has a great writing style and it works so well in the genre. I can’t wait to read more from the author.

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I will say, this book did a great job of keeping my attention and kept me turning pages so I could figure out what happened next. Sunday, our main character, is a bit unlikeable at times—she was caught in the center of a cheating scandal, she follows around Candie (the only other surviving member of her K-pop-esque TV show and girl group, Sweet Cadence) like a lost puppy, and she doesn't have much of a personality of her own. The flashback chapters were done really well and revealed a lot about the story, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the wild supernatural element that ran through the entire book (although others will be sure to love it, and it was executed well.) I also thought the set-up was a sequel was a little strange. Sunny and Candie had an interesting and well-written sapphic relationship, but there was very little romance in my opinion—it felt more like a toxic one-sided codependent one, and I didn't feel what I should have felt when they eventually got together.

Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Absolutely phenomenal! I was promised unhinged k-pop girlies and this book delivered. The horror is interspersed throughout, but the body horror is so well written it made me cringe. The girls are lovable, but also frustrating in their own ways. The commentary on what idols have to go through to make their debut is not lost within the plot or horror of the book.

The ending sets up for a potential sequel while having the plot of this novel fully resolved.

If you enjoy the movie Perfect Blue this feels a lot like that.

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This was... something. I enjoyed the characters, the tension was done well, the storyline was written nicely, and it definitely held my interest. It just felt very teenish and sometimes the dialogue felt a bit wooden for my taste.

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I went into this knowing nothing about it but what a wild ride. A sapphic K-pop horror thriller that talks about the exploitation of young girls and how the entertainment industry preys on them. I think it has a lot of teen appeal. I am not a big horror fan so initially as I was reading this I wasn’t sure how I felt about it but thinking about it I think I really like it. Definitely a book I will keep thinking about.

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A story reminiscent of House Of Hollow and Natural Beauty about a disgraced idol, Sunny, who follows her ex-bandmate to a talent competition/training camp in a bid to find answers and get closure for a series of traumatic events that occurred two years prior.

I found this book interesting -- the tension was well built, especially in the beginning and I read this book in one day as it got me invested. The author made an effort to pull the reader into the scene. The unreliable narration was most certainly unreliable, although it was done through my least favourite method. The interspersion of the two timelines was well crafted, both story lines were well developed. I really enjoyed the way everything played out.

Here's the thing: I cannot discuss details but there was a lot of crossing moral boundaries that was never treated quite seriously enough on its own, if that makes sense? If you were to take the horror out of the book, the book would still be a thriller, is what I'm saying, but because of the horror aspect it feels like the gravity of some events was detracted from.

However, that did not make the horror aspect any less horrifying. The world-building behind everything is painfully exhaustive, which is good. The way it interacted with the characters was inventive, although I felt it could have gone even further with certain aspects.

The characters were well developed and I really liked some of them. The dialogue felt a bit stilted at times, but nonetheless the relationships that are present here are well structured.

The rehearsals and all the technical industry elements seemed well written but I am not an expert. I do wish we'd seen more of the routine stuff but I understand that succinctness and pace were at stake.

Overall, a good YA horror/thriller that left me wanting just a little bit more than what we got, but well crafted and written nonetheless. I am definitely interested in the series.

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Thank you to Macmillan and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Now this is how you write a K-pop-inspired novel! Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng is an amazing YA thriller will give you chills all over. The story revolves around Sunny, who used to be part of a bestselling music trio when she was a kid. Then, something tragic happened to Mina, one of the girls in the trio. Now, Sunny is trying to get back in the game. She decides to compete in a popstar competition against her former groupmate, Candie. Can the two figure out what really happened to Mina?

Here is a terrifying excerpt from the opening chapter:

"“It’s not right,” Mina mumbles.
“What’s not right? Are you feeling sick?” I brush my hand across Mina’s forehead, and then I flinch. “Oh my god, Minnie, you’re burning up! Here, lie down, I’ll get you some ice—”
“Ice won’t help,” Candie says. “She needs to come with me.”
“To where?” I snap. “And you better say the hospital!”
Mina looks up, finally, and I suck in a breath. Her face looks … different."

Overall, Gorgeous Gruesome Faces is an amazing #ownvoices thriller that every reader of YA should add to their TBR lists. One highlight of this book is how it is #ownvoices. I am a huge of fan of Asian American authors writing YA thriller/horror, and I am so excited to support this debut author. There need to be more Asian American characters in YA, and it is especially important to have them written by Asian American authors.

Out of all the YA books I've read that have been inspired by K-pop, this is definitely one of my favorites - just because of how original its K-pop meets horror premise is. Another highlight of this book is the LGBT rep, which is also underrepresented in the YA thriller space. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of YA horror in general, you won't regret checking out this book when it comes out in November!

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This was very much like Suspiria set in the world of K-pop instead of the world of dance. I thought it was a very cool premise, but overall felt that both the mythology and horror aspects were underdeveloped.

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This book will definitely be an addition to my classroom library when it is published. Very appropriate for a high school classroom. The characters are very well developed and I know it will.appeal to my K-pop fans. I can't wait for the sequel.

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This YA book is fabulous, and I could not put it down. It starts off so unobtrusively and innocently. There's a female K-pop girls singing group, gorgeous, talented and famous! But wow, it just twists and turns from there. It turns into a horror fest...and no spoilers here...READ IT! It is terrific . Thank you to Netgalley and to Roaring Book Press...mackids.com and fiercereads.com. for the ARC... It is fierce!

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