Book review: Chinggay Labrador’s “Popped”

I don’t think anyone can accuse me of having any anti-KPop bias.

When KPop supergroup Super Junior came around these parts last year, I was right there in the mosh pit with friends, screaming it out with everyone else and taking videos of all the shirtlessness and Korean weirdness happening all over the stage. My phone got stolen though, so no fan videos will be passed down to young faglings.

When Rain came to perform — with UKiss in tow — I was also front and center, with the tweets to prove it.

I also have nothing against Summit Books and its line of chick lit novels, if my review of Tara Sering’s “Between Dinner and the Morning After” is anything to go by. I loved “Between Dinner and the Morning After”.

Seeing that the newest Summit Book was about the KPop fan experience, I thought that nothing could possibly go wrong. At best, I would love Chinggay Labrador’s “Popped”. At worst, I thought I would just be mildly irritated.

“Popped” tells the story of Andie Bautista and her friends, Trixie, Nica, and Cesca. The four of them have been brought together by what the initially call their “secret shame” — a fondness for Korean dramas and KPop.

That secret shame soon blows up into a full blown obsession, as Andie and the guys end up not just collecting any available merchandise on their Korean idols, but going on trips to Tokyo and Korea just to watch them perform and hopefully bump into them and be their friend, in real life.

As I’ve been through some of these things myself — with Hanson, though, and not KPop — I found the first few pages of the book to be really hilarious and engaging. I could relate to the need to know everything about your favorite group and to have everything even peripherally connected to them be in your possession. I couldn’t help but find the giddiness contagious.

However, somewhere around page 28, I started getting a terrible feeling down in the pit of my stomach. At a fictional KPop concert, Andie and the girls encounter someone who they eventually dub “Munchkin Oppa”, who as it turns out is part of a fan club. The girls act all snotty and superior, mostly because “Munchkin Oppa” has “orange-toned, badly-rebonded, chin length hair” and designs crappy fan shirts.

I mostly dismissed this feeling as irrational, but when “Munckin Oppa” reappears again on page 56 and the girls were equally dismissive, I started feeling like I had something stuck in between my teeth and I couldn’t get it out.

This unnecessary meanness continued to grate even more when Andie goes on a trip to Tokyo and is faced with nothing but absolutely model fans who don’t scream and shout and whatnot. And here I was thinking that Japanese fangirls mostly looked like this:

The same goes when Andie and the gang head to Korea to hunt down their KPop dream boyfriends. The foreign fans are such models of great behavior while the Filipino fans are dubbed as either “Orcs from Mordor” or “dementors” because they were noisy and got in the four heroines’ personal space. I just couldn’t let it go.

What made these four girls so much better than the other local fans? What makes them any less crazy? If those “Orc” kids were in line — just like these girls were — what would make them Orcs? Is it because they invaded your personal space and just made your waiting experience uncomfortable? That’s de rigeur for concerts, Andie and co. Maybe you were those girls that were at the Kris Allen concert I went to. I would understand if Munchkin Oppa was a constant thorn in the girls’ side, preventing them from fulfilling their KPop dreams, but the only crime he’s committed is just not being the right kind of fan for Andie and her oh-so-special crew.

And even if we set that aside, I just found it hard to suspend my disbelief in the face of Andie’s international adventures. It might amuse guys to know that Andie is a freelancer who hasn’t taken a job in weeks because her obsession with all things Korean has taken over her life, while Trixie is unemployed. And yet they can afford to splurge on trips to Tokyo and Seoul within the space of a week, coupled with goddess knows how many bags of overpriced fan merchandise! What is this magical world they live in?!?

At around 100 pages in, Andie does this:

I could tell the four of us were going to lose our voices over the next couple of days. I was just glad that I had the chance to finally get our of my head and talk to people. Another week of traveling all by myself and I would have spontaneously combusted.

Of course, Andie. How can anything compare to the absolute AGONY of traveling by yourself to Tokyo on a FREELANCER’S BUDGET, buying BAGS OF OVERPRICED FAN MERCHANDISE on a FREELANCER’S BUDGET? MY HEART BLEEDS FOR YOU. I am SO HAPPY that you can now talk to your friends. One of whom is still able to travel INTERNATIONALLY even if she is UNEMPLOYED. I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE NOW IN THE COMPANY OF YOUR FRIENDS. MOTHERFUCKING BITCH.

By page 120+, I was already having a nervous breakdown, as evidenced by my tweets.

It’s not like I can’t handle a book with a Mary Sue in it. For fuck’s sake, I finished Becca Fitzgerald’s “Hush, Hush” and Alexandra Adornetto’s “Halo”. But the unnecessary meanness coupled with the Mary Sue characters was just too much for me to handle. It has none of the charm, the tenderness, and the intelligence of “Between Dinner and the Morning After”. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would definitely disapprove of this book.

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25 thoughts on “Book review: Chinggay Labrador’s “Popped””

  1. Because I like having my blood pressure shoot to fatal levels, especially on or about shitty books, I will also try to read Popped. And rant on Twitter. And feel so much better about myself and my writing.

  2. And from a fangirl’s point of view, the Japanese fans are really well-behaved. Bawal tumayo sa concert! (unless the artist/band/idol incites them to stand up and rock out, tahimik lang sila. If you had 80% of the fans standing, tapping their feet, and doing para-para moves with their hands, then that crowd is “hot.” A hot crowd doesn’t happen often sa pop concerts, based on what I watch on TV lol)

    The Korean fans are batshit crazy, though. But I think I heard from a friend, who got to watch Kpop gigs in South Korea that the fans who goes to the TV performances are well-behaved, too. As in they’d stare you down if you got up from your seat–these are the stuck-up fans, yung tipong may ownership na sa mga idols.

    Pero the other details you pointed out (like being able to travel to Korea and Japan unemployed/on a freelancer’s budget HELLO PAANO YUNG VISA MILYONARYO BA SILA) parang… kulang sa ~verisimilitude~

    1. Okay naman kasi sa akin yung wish fulfillment aspect eh. I get that, I also wrote fanfic. I just couldn’t get over how mean they were to the Filipino fans when it wasn’t even necessary. Bakit kailangan silang okrayin, hindi naman sila sagabal?

  3. Interesting premise for a book, seeing as there are loads of fangirl adventures waiting to be told (regardless of the object of obsession is), but meh, it all went downhill as you elaborated. Enjoyed reading your review though—ang kulet!

    And yay for Hanson. 🙂

    All set for Bacolod?

    1. Ewan ko lang ha, maybe I was just being too sensitive, but I really did not like the unnecessary meanness. Enjoyable naman siya in the beginning, and I understood that it was just going to be plain wish fulfillment. But the snark jut really rubbed me the wrong way.

      At of course, ready na ako for Bacolod!

    1. Actually, the only thing that really got to me was the unnecessary meanness eh. If it had just continued being a wish fulfillment vehicle, I would have gotten right behind it.

  4. In fairness sa libro, masaya naman syang basahin. It’s amazingly horrible and surprisingly mean and defensive, but it was an entertaining read despite the pointlessness.

  5. I just bought this today! I could super relate to the fangirl life except for the fact nga na get to travel to Japan AND Korea. Ang yaman naman nila ha. Bumili pa nga langng Big Bang merch wipe out na ko eh, haha.

  6. You just saved me 175 pesos and a few hours worth of reading. I’ll keep that in mind while reading my copy of Nobuko Takagi’s Translucent Tree. Summit Media had some share of duds in their book line (I bought a few books before finding a gem, My Imaginary Ex. Honestly, I was ready to burn my copies of the Girls Guide To… series, not because I can’t relate it as a guy but because it’s not enjoyable) but I admire the efforts.

    This will not be part of my collection.

    1. Have you tried Tara Sering’s “Before Dinner and the Morning After”? I thought it was ok. 🙂

      Also, I checked out “Translucent Tree”. Seems like an interesting read!

  7. It’s no longer sold in bookshops already so unless someone lends me of leads me the way of eventually snagging a copy.

  8. THUMBS UP! Hahaha! Rami kong tawa! I read Popped na rin but only half ata kasi naman hirap tapusin! First few pages I can relate pero grabe habang tumatagal sobrang naiinis na ako! Para akong nagbabasa ng fanfic na sobrang unrealistic. Also, I think Movement’s patterned sa Big Bang. Kasi yung mvs and IDK basta ang raming bagay dun na Big Bang agad naisip ko. Hahaha! La lang!

    1. Salamat at nagustuhan mo ang review ko! 😀

      To be honest, ang kilala ko lang talaga na KPop bands eh SuJu, Shinee, saka 2PM, so probably tama kayo na Big Bang ang pinagmulang ng Movement. XD

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