Read yourself into the K-pop Trainee World with Help from Jessica Jung

October 10, 2020 | 3928 Visits

Have you ever wanted to explore the world of k-pop trainees? But more than just research, you wanted to walk a day in the kicks of an idol in training? Now you have your chance thanks to Jessica Jung, an inside source in the industry.

Jessica Jung was a member of Girls’ Generation (which needs no introduction), a solo artist, actress, creator of a fashion line and now, author. She just released her first young adult novel, Shine, through Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Considering Jessica’s experience, what better topic to write on than that of a k-pop trainee in the making? If you’ve ever dreamed of living life as an idol and wondered the ins and outs of the trainee world—now is your chance to fully immerse yourself from home!

Shine follows a Korean-American named Rachel, working hard to get her shot at stardom as a trainee at one of Seoul’s largest k-pop labels. Of course, this involves blood, sweat, and tears. Rachel starts to fall for the dreamy, established idol at her label and must navigate the waters of romance amidst the stress of hoping to debut. Will Rachel survive the hustle life and make it into the luxe, high-stakes world of the k-pop industry? Only one way to find out!

The question on most minds is how much is this novel based on Jessica’s personal experience? In an interview with Variety, Jessica in regards to this question said: Rachel and I are very similar, but I did fictionalize everything. But I hope it will be an Easter egg hunt for people. I want them to find clues along the way, figure out who’s who, what’s what, have fun with it and enjoy it.  That will certainly be enough motivation to pick up a copy of Shine, especially for fans of Girls’ Generation!


This novel touches on some of the controversial issues within the industry. Bullying because of competition between trainees and mistreatment of female stars versus male ones is explored within the pages of Shine. Jessica incorporates this into her fiction work as a way to let readers know what goes on behind the scenes and to raise awareness of the issues that exist in the k-pop world. In her interview with Variety, she talks about this in stating, “Koreans in general, they’re very conservative in every way, so it’s not easy to really speak up. It can be very sensitive. But I think I was brave enough to do that.” 1

Another unique feature of Shine is the use of Korean. The author purposefully left some words untranslated, knowing k-pop fans would enjoy the authenticity and opportunity to learn words in Korean. She wasn’t wrong! Part of the fun of k-pop is learning a new language along the way, and it’s awesome that Jessica considered this when composing her novel!


Jung is one of the first K-pop stars to write a novel based on an idol career. In writing this book, she mentioned wanting the reader to walk away with a positive view of their dreams. It’s okay to fight for yourself and work hard to achieve your ambition. Let character Rachel Kim inspire you to find your voice and be dedicated to your goals! Devouring this book in one sitting is totally acceptable. Live your dreams!


—-Ellie Boyd

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