David Yoon’s YA contemporary Frankly in Love is a heartfelt and humorous portrayal of the struggles of high school love and finding your identity, all while shining a light on the damaging power of racism on relationships.
I was so excited to read Frankly in Love. It is a delight to read stories from perspectives and voices that are not my own. This story did not disappoint.
Frank Li is a Korean American, high school senior in Southern California. He plays Dungeons and Dragons, has a best friend named “Q”, and is obsessed with creating soundscapes by recording different sounds from the world around him (like the clinks of dishes from dinner, or the sound of waves crashing against the sand at night). He also likes a quirky, smart girl in his class called Brit Means. There’s just one problem— she’s white, and his parents only want him to date a Korean girl. So, Frank hatches a plan with a fellow childhood friend, Joy Song, who is Korean and also in a similar predicament as himself, since she is secretly dating a fellow student who is Chinese (a huge no no for her parents). The plan is simple— pretend to date each other in front of their parents to keep them happy, but then date who they want once they are out of their parents’ sight. However, after successfully achieving his fake dating scheme, Frank begins to wonder if he really understands love or even himself at all.
I found Frank to be hilarious. I loved his profound, yet whimsical remarks about life and his situations he often found himself in. He is just a relatable and charismatic guy. His relationship with Q is such friendship goals. They have the best bromance. I hope everyone can find a buddy like Q. Also, Frank’s relationship with his parents felt realistic. Even though I do not have a language barrier with my own parents, I could relate to the awkwardness in the way he talked to them, as well as the longing to be accepted and loved by them. I also appreciated how he was disgusted by his parents’ racism, but he didn’t make fun of them or degrade them, instead he lovingly tried to show them how they were wrong in their thinking. Without a doubt, Frank felt human in every sense. He is selfish and makes some not well-thought-out decisions, but that makes him all the more relatable.
Young adulthood is a difficult time, especially if one is struggling with two different cultural identities. And I think that’s the key to understanding Frankly in Love, it is about a young adult trying to figure out who they are as a person, who they want to be, and who they want to love. That’s why I love the ending to this story (which I won’t spoil); it gave me a deep sense of satisfaction and the strength to keep pushing forward even when societal and family pressures keep telling me to do things or be a certain way.
Therefore, if you’re in high school, college, or still figuring out who you are and want to be, then this book is a great reminder that you’re not alone and that it is a journey that all of us must partake. Also, racism is never ever a good thing, and it hurts and destroys relationships like nothing else, so be kind to everyone around you, and recognize that we are all human and deserving of love, respect, and equal treatment.