The handful of people who read my blog know that Chinggay Labrador’s “Popped” series has been good to me. The past two installments always draw big (read: more than two) crowds to my blog, and I believe my review of the first book in the trilogy has the most comments among all my posts.
So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to all of you that the final book in the trilogy is also getting a review on this here blog. Released several months ago, I finished reading it midway through September — and I’ve had a difficult time putting my thoughts in order since.
But now I’m sitting my butt down and tackling this beast. Gird your loins, guys, gals, and everything else in between. This is going to be a bumpy ride.
When we last left AndieBau and Co. in “Popped Too”, things were going swimmingly well for the quartet. Andie got her “normal” Korean, Mac Park, to move to the Philippines to be with her. Nica, purely on the strength of her ability to stand at a street corner, manages to beguile two hot Korean guys — one of which is the leader of the world’s hottest K-Pop group. Cesca and Trixie are doing whatever it is they do to advance the plot.
But as we begin the third and final book in the greatest book of this century, we find that all is not well in the land of kimchi and bibimbap. Mac Park likes to make fun of Andie’s K-Pop obsession (the horror!) and it is seriously harshing Andie’s buzz. Add to that the fact that Mac still hasn’t come right out and said that the two of them are a couple. Whatever will polite society say?
But AndieBau and Co. have little time to worry about the state of Andie’s love life, as something infinitely more important is about to happen to them. Movement is going to come to the Philippines, and Nica can get them up close and personal with the band like kimchi-scented band-aids or something. Will it finally happen? Will the girls finally get to hang with their K-Pop idols? Because we obviously aren’t counting the times where they already met them in books one and two?
My heart, it is all aquiver and aflutter with excitement.
Right from the get go, it’s pretty obvious what the biggest hurdle “Popped 3” has to contend with. How else can you top all the ridiculous good fortune that happened to AndieBau and the gang in the past two books? I think there’s very little that can top catching the attention of someone famous simply by standing like a Korean streetwalker.
Labrador uses the silver bullet in every fanfic writer’s arsenal — the “vacation with the guys” trope. But it is a shadowy and nebulous thing that is constantly alluded to in the next but never actually executed late into the book. And it isn’t even as grand as all the build-up that led to it.
What we get in the pages in between is the constant refrain of AndieBau’s First World complaints as she tolerates us Third World peasants. In chapter after chapter, AndieBau chronicles for us the many failings of Mac Park as a non-boyfriend. Witness how uncomfortable it is for him to be in a store with a wall-sized poster of the K-Pop star who looks surprisingly like him! Feel the terror as he reveals his preference for Greenhills and cheap imitation goods! Whatever will polite society think when they discover that Mac Park — gasp! — likes taking selcas of himself and posting it on his Facebook page!
But not to worry, because AndieBau has a plan!
“With a little bit of boyfriend training, I was sure I could rid Mac of the weird pull he felt for disturbing lola, Antique Roadshow items. I imagined our future apartment together would be filled with fun, non-creepy vintage furniture, kitschy dinnerware I’d buy in Seoul, and framed photos of all the places we’d visited together.”
You don’t want a boyfriend, AndieBau. What you want is a K-Pop star real doll that you can stick your strap-on in.
The other members of the Fellowship of Kimchi are afflicted with similar First World concerns. Trixie has to work late at night! Cesca’s boyfriend Stephen — who looks like Jericho Rosales! — is too supportive and involved in her K-Pop obsession! Nica — who has become deputy lifestyle editor of Nylon Korea in the space of two months despite only having a rudimentary knowledge of Korean — can’t choose between the Korean guy who looks like Jay Park and the guy who’s apparently based on Big Bang’s G-Dragon! My heart bleeds just thinking about all their problems.
What’s doubly frustrating is that these First World concerns are held up as the perfect justification for all the good fortune that comes AndieBau and Co.’s way. And it’s not even subtext; AndieBau spells it out for you on page 29.
“Right when we needed a welcome break from each of our first life perils…this confidential top secret e-mail from Nica lands on our laps, just like that.
I could feel the K-Pop fairy welcoming us back into her fold. It was only a matter of time before our ‘fantastic world’ would be back again — and this time, on our turf, and if we were lucky, on our terms too.”
That’s another thing I found funny. “On our terms”, finally? Everything’s that happened in the first two books have been nothing but on the terms set by AndieBau and Co. Aside from buying the tickets to Korea, the only thing these girls have done to snag their K-Pop Romeos has been to literally stand. In Nica’s case, it was in front of the recording company. For Trixie, it was standing in line for the restroom. If it was that easy to get a K-Pop star I would have been in a relationship for years now.
The girls also have the Oracle at Delphi whipped when it comes to interpreting signs. When the Fellowship of Kimchi manages to get their hands on Movement’s rider, AndieBau declares that Nica and Jungsang’s shared love of Nerds makes them the Aragorn and Arwen of the K-Pop universe. And AndieBau and KJK? Their relationship was obviously meant to be because they both like the Notorious B.I.G.
At the book’s climax, we get devastating news about Mac Park — he’s actually in a relationship with a Korean lady and didn’t really plan on being AndieBau’s boyfriend after all. AndieBau has a breakdown, and I suppose we’re all expected to feel sympathy for her.
But why should we? It’s hard to appreciate a character’s loss when she’s gained so much by doing practically nothing. Over the course of three books and nearly 600 pages have lost nothing and yet gained everything; when the dumping finally happens you kind of want to say “It’s about time!”
Furthermore, one can’t help but feel like Mac Park dodged a bullet here. AndieBau isn’t in love with him, she’s in love with how easy it was in theory to mold him into her very own version of a K-Drama, as evidenced by her “boyfriend training” plans. He’s already Korean, her job is already halfway done.
And besides, AndieBau and Mac Park weren’t even together-together. May doctorate degree lang sa Assumption University itong si AndieBau. AndieBau should have listened to the centuries-old adage that tells us: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”
Or in drag queen parlance:
And the most valid reason why I can’t feel anything for AndieBau’s plight? All the guys from Movement end up sympathetic to her. And KJK, the Movement member she’s been lusting about since forever? Offers to beat up Mac Park and ends up asking AndieBau to collaborate with him on a song. Let me bring out Amy Poehler and seth Meyers again.
- If you’re a good KPop fan who isn’t ugly and doesn’t have a thick Filipino accent, your imaginary K-Pop husband will have no choice but to gravitate towards your kimchi-lined twat.
- You can afford to go to Korea, Japan, and buy tons of merchandise, even if you’re only a freelancer, because your K-Pop dreams will finance itself. Just don’t ask for specifics.
- If you complain enough, two hot Korean men will fall helplessly in love over you.
- The perfect man is someone you can mold into whatever you like, his own personality be damned.
And that’s about it, folks! Our long national nightmare is over with this final installment. Now let me just limber up over the holidays so I can finally quash the titan that is Tyra Banks’ “Modelland”.