Summary of Frankly in Love: Frank Li is a Korean American high school student. He calls himself a “Limbo” (his term for Korean-American kids) who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own California upbringing. Frank’s parents immigrated from Korea, and they want him to date Joy, also a senior from a Korean family. Frank’s older sister, Hanna, has been disowned because she married a Black American, Miles. Because of that, when he wants to date a white girl (Brit Means), Joy and Frank concoct a fake-dating scheme. Q, his best friend, is a Black American, and together they frequently face racism in their community. Frank’s story is full of conflicts: trying to date a white girl (Brit) (and fake-dating so his parents don’t know), dating a Korean-American (Joy) his parents love, succeeding in high school (and getting into college), being a good friend (Q), and helping his family come to terms with some of their problems. Through it all, Frank wonders if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
Initial Thoughts: Occasionally, I review a book too quickly because I want to make sure I get all of my thoughts down, but for Frankly in Love, there are so many thoughts that I had to take a few days to think. I also went back to my Goodreads and changed my rating from 3✭ to 4✭. If you like to watch Kdramas or the television show Kim’s Convenience, I think that you will find this book particularly appealing. I say that because this book has a lot packed in- funny, cringe-y, sad, and heartwarming. I do want to warn you that this is NOT the fake-dating rom-com that I thought it was going to be.
********Everything below this will contain spoilers. Proceed with your own discretion.*********
Here are 5 quotes I want to talk about from Frankly in Love by David Yoon.
(1) “Sunbae – as in senior, mentor- is what Joy’s dad calls Dad, since Dad got to America first. Dad calls Joy’s dad hoobae – as in junior, understudy, noob. They’ve been calling each other this for decades, and now it’s become this little comedy routine they like to perform” (126).
I originally marked this section because I was merely appreciative of the way that David Yoon explained the Korean terms that were frequently used in the book. When I reread it, I see that this is foreshadowing later in the book. Frank didn’t understand the underlying meaning to the adults’ routine. By the end of the book, Frank learns that his parents were merely trying to protect him from their problems, and this “comedy” was probably not as funny as his dad made it out to be.
(2) “They want to make sure The Store was kept in good hands. Good, Korean hands” (11).
A few years ago, I went into a Korean grocery store, and the cashier recommended a specific kind of kimchi because it had been made with ‘Korean hands’ as opposed to the kimchi made by Americans. I laughed it off as a funny way of using the idiom, but when I read it again in Frankly in Love, I realize that this is an idiom that is used more than I thought. Frank’s family cared a lot about who took care of the store, but in the end, the new assistant is Mexican American, and you see a sweet change of heart/mindset in Frank’s parents. (Ie. They’re willing to let someone who is not Korean work in their store.)
(3) “Q emerges from behind the car.
‘Were you hiding?’ says Joy.
‘You know cops shoot kids like me when they’re alone on the streets like this,’ says Q.
‘Fuck,’ I say. I throw an arm around him. ‘I’m sorry, I just lost track of time.’
Q ducks away, his face a mixture of irritation and fear and relief” (359).
Let’s talk about Q because in almost every review I’ve read, he’s the favorite character -the best friend. Everyone deserves a friend like Q who will help you study for the SAT, cry with you when you’re waiting for your dad in the emergency room, pick you up so that your parents don’t know who you’re dating, play games with you while your foot is broken, etc. Q also gets neglected. Frank talks a lot about the racism of his parents and the racism against Korean Americans, but he doesn’t see or try to understand the racism Q faces as a Black American. And, at the end of the book, readers learn that Q is in love with Frank. It’s heart-breaking to read. Frank has clearly shown he doesn’t understand love, and he’s not even that great of a friend. (I do hope that they remain friends, and Franks does better.) Many reviewers complain that Q’s coming-out is poorly written, and I have to disagree. I don’t think it’s an underdeveloped plot line, but merely us watching how misunderstood Q has been through the whole book. However, he is my favorite character, and I have high hopes for his future!
(4)“When I arrived, Hanna was already there in the room with Dad. She let him feel her belly. He took both of Miles’s hands in both of his and said: ‘You whole of world number one best daddy for Sunny’” (402).
Hanna, Frank’s older sister, was disowned when she got engaged to Miles, a Black American. At the end of the book, she is pregnant with their first daughter. Before their dad passed away, Frank and Hannah got to spend time as a re-united family. I teared up. It’s a sweet moment and shows the love of family that Frank has been sadly missing.
(5) “But the thing about last kisses is this: they are final. Me and Joy already did that. It was done” (404).
I probably read that line 20 times. For most of the book, I wanted Joy and Frank to stay together. I thought that they had overcome so many hurdles to finally be a couple. But, I think David Yoon was trying to say that Frank is growing up now. Brit Means wasn’t the one he loved. Joy won’t stand by him when things get hard. Frank learned a lot about love, and he is still learning.
Final Thoughts: A fake-dating trope, sweet characters, complex family relationships, an adorable romance, difficult discussions of racism, and humorous and witty writing- Frankly in Love is a great book, and I highly recommend.