Book review: Tara Frejas’ “Scandalized”

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Anyone who’s had even just a passing encounter with this blog knows that I haven’t had the best luck with books that feature a romance with a KPop star. There was the thrilling saga that was the Popped trilogy, and the one problem I had with Carla De Guzman’s  Cities was the fact that parts of the novel so perfectly captured the tropes of K-Drama that I had difficulty making my way through it.

Naturally, I went into Scandalized very, very apprehensive. The premise hews a little too closely to that of Popped Too, and boy did I not enjoy that. Will Scandalized frustrate and infuriate me in equal measure? Or will this finally be the work that breaks the KPop curse?

ScandalizedCover-Amazon

In Scandalized, we follow the story of Filipina”Fi”  Legaspi, a road manager for popular Korean boyband East Genesis Project. And as is often the case in situations like this one, she has been carrying a torch for one of East Genesis Project’s band members.

Things are complicated enough as it is, but it becomes even more so when one drunken night catapults her straight into the eye of a brewing fangirl storm. When things prove to be much more difficult than even she anticipated, she finds herself seeking refuge in the country of her birth.

Once she’s back in the Philippines, she finds comfort in the one person she did not expect it to come from, and it sends her feelings into a loop. With her heart and her career now both on the line, will she be willing to take the risk, scandal be damned?

As I mentioned earlier, I started reading Scandalized with more than a little apprehension. The first few pages didn’t do anything to help me shake off this apprehension, either — everything was happening in much the same way you expect things to happen with a premise like this one.

However, things began to take a turn for the better around 20 pages in.  One of the book’s conceits is showing a fictional comments section keeping track of fans’ opinions on the happenings surrounding the boys of East Genesis Project, and I found it especially cute that fans who slash (Does this really need an explanation?) were given a running shoutout. It’s a small thing, but definitely one that is appreciated.

But as i continued reading, it became clear that this conceit was more than just a cute way to break up each chapter. As the events in Fi’s life start to escalate, so do the emotions of the fans in the comments section. It’s a creative and efficient way of building tension and drama, and Tara should definitely get props for using this particular conceit to devastating effect in the latter part of Scandalized,

Tara definitely shows her fandom bonafides with her expert rendition of a sex scandal, KPop-style. Her depiction shows a much clearer understanding of South Korean fan culture than previous books I’ve read, and her criticism of aspects of this sasaeng culture and the undue sway it holds over Korean idols’ lives  makes for interesting reading. Once Tara gets into her groove, I couldn’t put the book down.

If there’s anything to nitpick, it’s the fact that this fascinating portrait of South Korean fan culture comes at the expense of the love story at hand. While the kilig was definitely there, I felt like this could have been pushed even further if Tara had the luxury of a higher word count.  It was also very clear that certain characters and situations were being set up for future books, and it ended up undercutting the central love story in Scandalized. This is a shame, as apparently one of the characters involved is based on Daniel Henney.

Having said that, those are really minor complaints about a novella that honestly caught me off guard in all the right ways. Be sure to grab a copy once this hits the internet on the 5th of May — I hope you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was once I put it down.

Want to learn more about Tara Frejas? Check her out on the following social media sites!

Facebook: facebook.com/taratriestowrite
Twitter: @tarafrejas
Blog: taratriestowrite.wordpress.com

You can also find out more about East Genesis Project here:

East Genesis Project’s website: bit.ly/EGProject
Twitter: @eastgenproject

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