Fake Honeymoon to Real Love: The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre

The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre cover

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Before my summer break ended, I decided to read a romance that gives off tropical vacation vibes. For this, I chose The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre, a fake romance set on the fictional Sapphire Isle, a resort dedicated solely to sapphic women. The Honeymoon Mix-up tells the story of Basil Jones, a woman recently left at the altar by an ex-fiancée exasperated by Basil’s workaholic ways, and Caroline King, a private investigator hired to tail Basil. After sharing a one-night stand with Caroline that Basil hopes to put behind her forever, she decides to go on her honeymoon alone so that she can still close the wine deal her mom sent her there to complete. Upon finding out that the resort has a strict couples-only policy, she enlists Caroline as her fake wife. Eventually, though, lines become blurred and the women begin to wonder if there is something more between them. 

I will be honest, it took me a while to get into the book. I think my main hindrance was that I found Basil to be annoying. She’s bitter and unhealthily devoted to her work. In fact, there were parts where I totally understood why her ex-fiancée left her. Over time, though, Basil grew on me. I began to see how her overbearing and unrelenting mom drilled into her that all that matters is the family business. By about halfway through the novel, I found myself empathizing with Basil and rooting for her to find love and happiness with Caroline and escape her mother’s grasps.

The Honeymoon Mix-up is filled to the brim with plots and subplots. You have the main story of Basil and Caroline becoming more than fake newlyweds. Then, you have Basil’s issues with her mom, Basil’s attempt to seal a wine deal with the resort, a sapphic Olympics competition against one of Basil’s hated high school rivals, Caroline’s conflict between love and her job, and Caroline’s past relationship trauma. It was a lot to keep track of, and within the relatively short length of the book, it felt at times that none of the subplots got their adequate space. None of them were left unresolved and all had some impact on the finale, but at the same time, none of them hit their emotionally devastating potential, which is a shame. Also, because most of these subplots were Basil’s, it often felt like her story rather than both hers and Caroline’s. 

Despite these drawbacks, I still enjoyed The Honeymoon Mix-up. Basil and Caroline, once they get over their issues, have fantastic chemistry in and out of the bedroom. Watching them get over their issues and fall in love was delightful. As I said earlier, I liked seeing Basil’s development from workaholic controlled by her mother to someone willing and able to forge her own path. The book is also very funny, with a lot of the humor coming from Frankie Fyre’s writing and dialogue. 

For me, the biggest strength of The Honeymoon Mix-up is how it celebrates the diversity of the queer experience. Caroline is Black and comes from a polyamorous family. Sapphire Isle is a safe and welcoming place for sapphic couples to spend time together and find community. It is located in Thailand and is predominantly staffed by Asian women. The owners, Mae and Lynn, are an older mixed race lesbian couple who help Caroline and Basil by sharing their experiences earned with age. Between all of this and the little funny sapphic in-jokes, it felt like a true celebration of what makes queer life in general and sapphic life specifically so great. In addition, I loved Lynn and found her to be the true MVP of the story and possibly one of the best side characters I have read in sapphic literature. I would absolutely take a relationship course with her. 

So, despite some issues I had with it, I found The Honeymoon Mix-up an enjoyable fake relationship romance that would make an excellent beach read. Now, I just need to find the beach! 

A Sweet and Steamy Polyamorous Romance: Triple Sec by T.J. Alexander

Triple Sec cover

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Before this book had even come out (happy release day, Triple Sec!), I’d already been recommending it nonstop on Our Queerest Shelves. Ever since I finished it, I haven’t been able to stop talking about. It’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and in my top five favourite romance novels I’ve ever read.

This is about Mel, who is a bartender who’s jaded about love ever since her divorce. But then Bebe walks into the bar, and they have undeniable chemistry. Bebe is interested in dating Mel — she’s also married and polyamorous. Mel has never tried an open relationship, but it seems like a good way to tiptoe back into dating. This will be totally light and casual, right? They mutually agree: no falling in love. And Bebe’s nonbinary wife Kade is so intimidating that Mel can’t imagine actually being a part of their lives. But obviously, feelings don’t obey even the most clearly written out agreements.

I’ve long thought that reality TV shows are missing out by not casting all bisexuals. (Other than that season of Are You the One?) Think of the drama potential! The opportunity for different pairings increases exponentially. Since reading Triple Sec, I feel the same way about romance novels and polyamorous main characters. You can have two falling-in-love scenes in the same romance! Twice the first kisses! Two — or more — completely different relationship (and sexual) dynamics! I feel like I’ve been spoiled and will have trouble going back to two-person romances.

I know romance novels are so specific to each reader, but I loved the relationship dynamics and especially the dialogue. When Mel shows Bebe her tattoo of Pompeii and Bebe replies, “I love a good disaster myself” — look, I also would have fallen in love right then and there. I also liked the friendship between Mel and her roommate, who both agree to follow the good word of Saint Channing Tatum.

It’s also very steamy. I’m not going to get into it, but wow.

I enjoyed the ongoing rewriting of Bebe and Mel’s relationship agreement as they renegotiate things like pet names, catching feelings, and the dynamics between Kade, Mel, and Bebe.

While the central plot is the relationships between Mel, Bebe, and Kade, there’s also a subplot about a cocktail competition. I don’t drink, but I still found it fascinating to read about Mel’s different creations and how she keeps reworking her creations leading up the competition. Winning would mean she could buy her own bar, a dream of hers.

I also liked reading about Mel’s job: Terror & Virtue is a high-end cocktail lounge, and Mel is very skilled and passionate about her work — but it’s also customer service. It means dealing with drunk, rude customers and worrying about your next paycheck. In fact, the only criticism I had with Triple Sec is that I feel like the class difference between Mel and Bebe/Kade wasn’t really explored, other than Mel admiring their apartment and feeling a little out of place. Bebe and Kade are wealthy — Kade is a successful artist and Bebe is a lawyer defending workers’ rights.

That’s a very small complaint, though, especially since the ending didn’t go where I thought it would. If you want a fun, queer, polyamorous romance with lots of kind people learning how to best support each other, I highly recommend Triple Sec.

A Sapphic K-Pop Horrormance: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng

the cover of Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng

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Content warnings for self-harm, homophobia, racism, sexism, suicide, violence, and gore.

Sunny, Candie, and Mina were a young K-pop group on the rise, starring in a popular TV show that launched their career. That was before everything fell apart. Before Sunny and Candie turned against each other. Before the ritual that went wrong. Before Mina jumped to her death.

Now, Sunny is 18 and feels like the best years of her life are behind her. She squandered her shot at fame, and Candie won’t speak to her. They used to be be inseparable, but now she won’t take Sunny’s calls. While following Candie on social media, Sunny discovers that she’s entered herself into a K-pop competition. To her manager mother’s delight, Sunny joins the same competition, but it’s not really to try to relaunch her career. She wants to reconnect with Candie and finally talk about what happened to Mina, as well as the secrets they’ve been keeping. Meanwhile, something is wrong with the workshop: girls keep getting injured, the hallways seem to rearrange themselves, and Sunny could swear she can see Mina out of the corner of her eye sometimes.

The story rotates timelines between the K-pop competition and the lead-up to Mina’s death. This is described by the publisher as a “speculative thriller,” and I think that fits better than “horror.” There are horror elements, including some unexpectedly upsetting gore, but the majority of the book has an off-putting and surreal feel.

At the workshop, Sunny is placed with Candie as her roommate—but Candie continues to be standoffish even in close proximity. Because I don’t think this is a spoiler, I’ll say that Sunny and Candie’s relationship isn’t strictly platonic, but Candie pushed her away to maintain her image. That history simmers below the surface, and in some ways, this is a bit of a horrormance: their fraught relationship is at the centre of this story.

I don’t want to give away the supernatural element, because the answers to what happened to Mina and what’s happening at the workshop are unspooled throughout the story, but I will say it’s a different focus than I’ve seen in a horror novel before. On the other hand, there is a scene with teeth and scissors that I will truly never be able to get out of my head (bad choice of words…) Because the book is mostly dreamlike and unsettling, that scene really shocked me.

There is more going on here than just shifting hallways and girls with the wrong faces, though. It also touches on the pressures of the K-pop industry and the difficulty of fame, including racism and stalking.

If you’re a fan of K-pop, horror, dark fantasy, sapphic romance subplots, and surreal settings—or any mix-and-match of those—pick up Gorgeous Gruesome Faces. This is Linda Cheng’s debut, and though I thought there were a few clunky lines (especially the dialogue tags, which shows just how picky I’m being), the premise and atmosphere was strong enough to override any drawbacks, and I look forward to seeing how her writing develops in her next books.

Fake Dating at a Sapphic Island Getaway: The Honeymoon Mix-Up by Frankie Fyre

the cover of The Honeymoon Mix-Up by Frankie Fyre

The Honeymoon Mix-Up by Frankie Fyre was released in June 2023, and it’s a sweet and spicy contemporary romance about two people facing unusual circumstances which leads them both to a situation of a lifetime. Basil Jones has the seemingly perfect life until she is left at the altar by her fiancé. Determined not to lose out on an important work deal, she goes on the honeymoon trip as planned. She flies to gorgeous Sapphire Isle, where sapphic women go to escape their real life and live in paradise, even for a short time. The only issue? It’s a strict “couples only” policy, and Basil is without a partner. Enter Caroline King. The two had one brief encounter prior to meeting each other for a second time on the island. That second meeting is a little less by chance than Basil thinks, but Caroline is both taken with Basil and needs a place to stay, so she agrees to be her “wife.”  What follows is a fake relationship trope for the ages, with each of them holding on to secrets from the outside world and one another.

If you are a fan of fake relationships, sapphic islands, and intense sexual chemistry, The Honeymoon Mix-Up is a must read. I admit that I do find something delicious about two people having to fake their way through intimacy, only for that intimacy to grow into something real. The tension in this fake marriage is no different and is perhaps even turned up several levels due to how Basil’s and Caroline’s first encounter went down. (Ahem…so to speak.) There is no denying these two women are attracted to each other, but each has their own reasons for trying to resist the pull they feel. Caroline has learned mixing business with pleasure can lead to heartbreak, and Basil was just left at the altar–an event that would leave anyone to proceed with caution.

In addition to these two women having to play wives, the forced proximity of sharing a honeymoon suite (*there is, indeed, only one bed*), and being on a literal island adds to them not being able to escape the other. Fyre, who’s name is fitting for how she writes certain scenes, has created an environment that any sapphic will be clamoring to find. There is something incredibly lovely about the thought of escaping to a safe island filled with other sapphic women. Also, it is no secret in my personal life that I am quite competitive, so Fyre’s invention of the “Sapphic Olympics” left me longing to find a real life version. The events she’s created are clever and fitting for its participants. I don’t mean to brag, but I would absolutely nail the dresser building competition. Within the context of the story, the games are just another area to add fuel to that tension between Caroline and Basil. Having to work together as a team and pitting them against one of Basil’s childhood nemeses creates another scenario where they are forced to confront their ever growing attraction. Basil’s Type A behavior, paired with Caroline’s more practical approach, fueled by her time in the military, creates a perfect storm of additional conflict.

As the weather gets colder, it would be wise to hold on to this book if you’re looking to read something to keep you warm. Literally. I, for one, will never be looking at a photo booth the same way again. I have a feeling after reading this book, neither will you. Their story is filled with delicious tension and heated looks. Fyre is incredibly good at building tension so tight you think you might burst, so you can only imagine what the characters are feeling. Thankfully, you don’t have to imagine too much. There are those scenes that will have you looking around to make sure you’re  alone or, at the very least, that no one is peeping over your shoulder. Maybe don’t read on public transportation. Or do, who am I to judge? (If there is one thing the sapphic community can do, its school features so no one knows you are reading about two women doing the horizontal polka.)

As filled with sexual tension as this book is, there are other themes that flow throughout. Through Basil, it examines the pressure of family obligations and how long we can allow our parents’ dreams to propel us forward before a resentment starts to build. Fyre also forces the main character/reader to examine at what point hurtful actions and breaches of trust, despite the intentions behind them, are too much for us to forgive. What is that line and do those good intentions absolve the person who hurt us and broke our trust? I found myself asking what that line would be for me.

At its base level, The Honeymoon Mix-Up is a story about overcoming your fear of failure—in life and relationships—and being brave enough to try again. I appreciate the twists that Fyre also throws in, keeping you guessing about a few mysteries until a reveal leaves you saying: “OH!?!”. Did I want to grab one character at one point and say: “please, out with it!” Yes! But without it, there would be no conflict to overcome.

With a cast of side characters that include a hedgehog and supportive best friends who will leave you smiling, The Honeymoon Mix-Up is a great read.

An F/F Romance for Women’s Soccer Fans: Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

the cover of Cleat Cute

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For everyone currently getting excited about women’s soccer, Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner, out September 19, is a cute romance between two teammates during the leadup to a World Cup year. I would like to thank the publisher for providing The Lesbrary with an ARC for review. I honestly enjoyed this story a lot—it’s a fun romance between two highly competitive people and features plenty of steamy action and on field dramatics.

Grace Henderson is a veteran star on both the US Women’s National Team and her National Women’s Soccer League team in New Orleans. She’s a consummate professional and deals with the intense pressure that comes at playing at her level and being in the spotlight by intensely cultivating her privacy even among teammates. But when rookie Phoebe Matthews is invited to National Team training camp, she manages to throw Grace off her stride almost instantly, and Grace is somewhat dismayed to realize that she will also be Phoebe’s captain back for the regular season in New Orleans. Phoebe Matthews is approaching her first season as a professional soccer player with her usual boundless enthusiasm and energy and a willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed. Her invitation to be considered for the National team juices her determination even more, as she realizes she could be competing for a spot on the World Cup Team. Gregarious and friendly, Phoebe has never bothered with not being out or with team politics. When sparks fly between them as the professional stakes mount, will they be able to find common ground between walls Grace has built around herself and Phoebe’s need for openness?

I really enjoyed this romance. As someone who has read her fair share of het or m/m athletic romances, I greatly enjoyed this foray into wlw sports. I’m on board. Let’s make lesbian soccer romances the next thing. You get all the cuteness of a romance combined with all the hyper competitiveness of professional athletes. Neither Grace nor Phoebe have taken it easy in their entire lives, or they wouldn’t be playing at an elite level, and that tension on the field translates so well into their romantic tension. Even if they’re not competing against each other, every time they help each other get better they get all hot and bothered. It’s great. I especially enjoyed their dynamic, with Grace taking the lead on the team as Captain and also showing Phoebe around New Orleans, but Phoebe being the more experienced one with feelings and communication. I loved it; it was exactly the level of fun and hi-jinx I want from a romance, but the difficulties introduced for tension did not feel forced or unlikely as sometimes romance problems do.

In conclusion, if you’re still jonesing for some quality soccer content in September, you should look up Cleat Cute, out September 19th. It’s fun and flirty with a heaping helping of sports feelings on top as an extra treat. I really felt like Phoebe and Grace fit together and worked well together. It was the perfect fast paced romance I wanted to get me pumped up for reading again. Definitely check it out: you won’t regret it.

Danika reviews Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch cover

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If you’re looking for a book equivalent of watching Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown–but as a bisexual romance novel–this is the book for you. Emmy Harlow left her childhood home of Thistle Grove after a humiliating breakup. She was determined to make a new life for herself in Chicago, leaving behind her friends and family and cutting her waist-length hair to her chin. And she did reinvent herself: she’s happy with her new life and her new job… even if she is a little lonely. Now, though, she’s on her way back to Thistle Grove to visit, because she has duties to fulfill as the scion of House Harlow. Because Thistle Grove isn’t your average small town: it’s magic, with 4 families of witches that date back to the 4 founders.

Gareth Blackmoore is the scion of the Blackmoore family, the most powerful one in Thistle Grove, as they are happy to tell you. Their family has run the town for generations, slowly squeezing out the other families. And he’s also the one who broke Emmy’s heart.

Emmy has returned to town to be the arbiter of the spellcasting tournament, a competition between the families that Blackmoore has won every year. It gives the winner more power as well as leadership over the other families. This time will be different, though, because Emmy quickly realizes she’s not the only one Gareth has wronged. Her high school crush, Talia, and her best friend, Linden, have since had relationships with him–and for each of them, he insisted on keeping their relationship a secret and then dumped them because they didn’t live up to his standards of greatness. The three of them make a pact to get revenge on Gareth, and the competition might be the perfect opportunity to give him a taste of humiliation.

I cannot overstate how much Halloween is packed into this book. Not only is it about witches, but the town itself doubles as a Halloween tourist trap, with visitors blissfully unaware of the real magic going on just out of sight. Every restaurant or bar is decked out in decorations and has witchy cocktails. Mixed in with the fake stuff are real seances, spells, and more. It even got a little bit over the top for me sometimes, like being punched in the face with Halloween, but I know that’s what a lot of people are hoping for.

While this is a fantasy novel, there’s also a strong romance component. Emmy and Talia immediately have a lot of heat between them, and you know it’s only a matter of time before they give into it. It’s not instalove, because they knew each other a bit in high school, but it is insta-attraction. Insta-lust. The romance builds based on that. I never got fully invested, I’ll be honest, because I couldn’t get a good sense of their dynamic (other than Emmy drooling over Talia), but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority there.

More than the romance, the revenge, and even the competition, though, this is about Emmy’s struggle with where she belongs, where home is. When she left Thistle Grove, it meant leaving behind her magic–which was never very strong, but it was a part of her. Her cousin is eager to step into the role of scion, waiting for Emmy to officially give up that title, but she’s not sure. Returning has made her realize how much she missed this place, her family, and Linden.

There’s an aspect of “blood family is the most important” and “there’s nowhere like home” that I don’t love, but it is discussed some. She left town to run away from a bad relationship with a guy. Yes, she balked at how Thistle Grove slots people into roles based on their family, but she wouldn’t have left if Gareth didn’t taint the place for her.

If a bisexual romance novel version of Halloweentown appeals to you, definitely pick this one up. It’s perfect for diving headfirst into Halloween, and it’s a cute, fun read–just what you want from a holiday romance. The competition aspect is also exciting and cinematic: I’d love to see it on screen. This is the first in the series, with the next following another Thistle Grove inhabitant!

Til reviews Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Crownchasers cover

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Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer is the story of Alyssa Farshot, a space pilot and member of the Explorers’ Society who wants nothing more than to take risks, break records, and scarf down a greasy hangover cure. Her life takes a sharp turn when the uncle who raised her dies—and did I mention he’s the emperor? Now heirs to the prime families, including Alyssa, must compete in a race across the stars to find the royal seal.

The winner will lead a thousand and one planets. The loser can return to riding flame tsunamis and eating bacon-egg-and-cheese hangover sandwiches.

Let the games… begin?

Alyssa could so easily have been unbearable—I rarely enjoy reluctant heroines—but, instead, she’s clever, resourceful, and immediately twists the situation to one in which she cares about the outcome. Rather than accepting her reluctance, she changes the game by allying herself with fellow contestant and best friend Coy. This speaks volumes to Alyssa’s character. It shows her to be someone who finds and takes third options rather than letting her circumstances be dictated. It also shows her to be a heroine who won’t be dragged along. The narrator cares. So the book stays interesting.

The plot is a straightforward fetch quest, layered with conniving politicians, planetary cultures and geographies, and well-rounded secondary characters. Planets range from dull to gorgeous, hostile to hostiler. Most species are humanoid, with variations like wings and horns, or crying not tears but drops of light. The story moves quickly with snappy, sometimes hilarious prose to match, and balances background with action. For me, this is where a lot of books fall flat—the worldbuilding feels like a textbook. While I don’t recall every detail from Crownchasers, I don’t think I’m missing anything important, because the feeling was more important than the precise circumstance. Things like how unfailingly rational secondary character Setter is, or the worlds that felt exploited by the empire, that remains with me even if I can’t quote direct passages.

In addition to being a solid great read, Crownchasers is very queer-normalized. Alyssa’s sexuality is never named, not as a secret, but as unimportant. Her attraction to multiple genders goes unremarked upon. Alyssa was raised by her uncles, while Setter has two moms. Queerness simply exists. More than that, relationships are portrayed in a healthy way. One thing that especially stood out to me was Alyssa and her ex-girlfriend, Faye, are both in the crownchase. They snark a bit, but no more than they do with anyone else, and although their breakup devastated Alyssa, it happened mutually and without either trying to hurt the other. They just realized they weren’t right together and ultimately remained friends.

I’ve read this book twice—once when it first came out, and again recently as I got my hands on the sequel. Both times I read it quickly, laughed, cried, and absolutely needed to know what happened next. It’s a fast-paced adventure with a engaging narration, that normalizes queerness and questions power structures, all centered around a protagonist who’s deeply flawed but just as deeply lovable.

Kayla Bell reviews Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch cover

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Happy Halloween season, readers! For October, I was looking for something sapphic and spooky. Luckily, I was approved for an ARC of Payback’s A Witch by Lana Harper, which meets those two requirements perfectly. I absolutely loved this fun, feminist story and am excited to share it with you all. 

Our story begins with our protagonist, Emmy Harlow, returning after a long time away to her hometown of Thistle Grove. Thistle Grove might seem like your run-of-the-mill Halloween-themed tourist trap, but it secretly is the home of four powerful witch families: the Harlows, the Thorns, the Avramovs, and the Blackmoores. As Emmy returns, it’s time for the families to compete in a magical competition called the Gauntlet, and it’s Emmy’s turn to be the judge. Before the tournament starts, Emmy meets with her best friend Linden and their other classmate, Talia. It turns out that all three of them have had their hearts broken by golden boy Gareth Blackmoore. The three hatch a witchy plan for Talia, the only one of them actually competing, to take Gareth down and seek sweet revenge. 

The plot is surprisingly intricate, so there are also layers I didn’t mention in my short summary. It’s basically John Tucker Must Die meets The Craft, with an extra serving of queer relationships. The book is as fun as it sounds. I loved the short, page-turning chapters and engaging competition between all of our characters. All of the challenges in the Gauntlet were fun to read about and had compelling stakes. The central romance in the book really worked for me, as well. Tension and surprise happened at every turn without the plot becoming too complicated or dour. I also really liked the ending, especially the final setpiece. To avoid spoilers, I will leave my review at that. I encourage you to read this book for yourself and see how you like it. 

All that being said, my favorite aspect of this novel was the setting. Thistle Grove felt like a real place, and Harper’s vivid descriptions brought the Halloween vibes in a big way. That’s probably why I found the book so comforting to read. I especially loved the cozy feel of the Harlows’ witchy bookstore and the town dive bar, the Shamrock Cauldron. The powerful, scary aura of the town’s lake was similarly striking. The book opens with Emmy almost being bowled over by the magic of her hometown, and I felt the same way reading about it. Thistle Grove was definitely a place I would want to spend time in, and that compelled me to keep reading. 

At times, the characters did feel a little flat, especially the extended family members of our four core competitors. However, that didn’t take away from the story at all for me. At the heart of this story was friendship and forgiveness. Forgiving others, yes, but also forgiving yourself for past mistakes. All of this was wrapped up in a bow of Halloween excellence. Payback’s A Witch comes out on October 5th, 2021. Thank you to Berkeley Publishing Group for the Netgalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Shannon reviews I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee

If you’re looking for something to make you smile just as much as it makes you think, Lyla Lee’s debut I’ll Be the One is the perfect book for you. It’s categorized as young adult romance, but don’t let that put you off. I’m in my forties and I loved every second I spent with these characters.

Skye Shin has grown up knowing she wants to be a K-Pop star. She’s devoted every spare moment to practicing both her singing and dancing, and even though those around her haven’t always been as supportive of her dreams as she might like, she’s determined not to let this get her down. Sure, she’s a self-professed fat girl whose mother is constantly telling her to lose weight before taking the world by storm, painful to be sure, but if her deep love for K-Pop has taught her anything over the years, it’s that she has to believe in herself one-hundred percent, even if she’s the only one who does.

When You’re My Shining Star, a talent competition focused on K-Pop, holds auditions in her area, Skye knows she has to try out. So, she skips school and shows up for what she hopes will be her chance to totally wow the judges. Unfortunately, while her performance is one of the best she’s ever given, some of the judges aren’t eager to take a chance on Skye. Suddenly, in front of tons of other would-be contestants as well as a camera crew, Skye is forced to defend not only her lifelong dream, but the right for anyone who isn’t extremely thin to create art.

What follows is not only a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a reality TV show, but a deep and often heart-wrenching look into one young woman’s journey toward self-acceptance. Skye is a remarkable heroine, more self-assured than I could have even dreamed of being at her age, smart, resourceful, and unwilling to back down. She knows what she wants, and even when things get rough, she plows ahead, sometimes making mistakes, but always seeking the best, most fulfilling way to be who she’s meant to be, and lest she seem too good to be true, let me assure you that she’s not always sure of her identity. She considers herself bisexual, but because of her contentious relationship with her mother, she’s afraid to come out to anyone but her closest friends, and yet, her unwillingness to come out makes her feel hypocritical at times.

As the competition heats up, Skye throws herself wholeheartedly into a grueling schedule of rehearsals and performances. Plus, she’s still in school and letting her grades fall is not an option. Needless to say, she’s busier than she’s ever been, but things aren’t all work and no play for her and her fellow contestants. Fast friendships are formed, and Skye even gets a shot at first love, even if that love comes from a direction she never anticipated.

If you’re sensitive to fat-phobic commentary, I’ll Be the One might prove difficult for you to read. Skye is bombarded with anti-fat rhetoric from her mother, from the judges, and from several of the other contestants, so proceed with caution if you decide to pick this book up.

Nothing I can say can adequately convey my love for I’ll Be the One. It’s the kind of book I would have loved to read as a teenager struggling to fit into a world that didn’t always feel welcoming. Lee has created the perfect combination of lighthearted fun and introspective wisdom, making this a great book for readers both young and old.

Trigger Warning: Fat-phobia