Exclusive: This YA debut plunges a New Jersey teen in the world of K-Pop
Welcome to K-Pop Confidential.
EW can exclusively announce that Scholastic has acquired the debut novel by Stephan Lee, about a 15-year-old girl from New Jersey who finds herself thrust into the competitive world of K-pop, for publication in fall 2020. Rights have already been sold in several countries.
As K-Pop confidential begins, our protagonist attends a K-pop audition on a dare. Surprisingly, she passes the audition, and is suddenly headed to Seoul, South Korea, where she’s plunged into the notoriously grueling K-pop trainee process.
“In a way, this is an epic adventure novel about a Korean-American girl, Candace Park, who takes a huge leap of faith into a world that’s entirely foreign to her in pursuit of a dream,” Lee, a longtime writer and editor for EW, says. “It was always my intent with K-Pop Confidential to explore the amazing aspects of K-pop — the passion and the talent of the young artists, the unparalleled creativity of the music and visuals — while also exploring the intense pressure put upon the artists.”
Lee tells EW that this, for him, is a story about discovering one’s worth beyond the pressures and expectations adults put on teens, as well as “finding the courage to speak out about injustice and mistreatment, even if it feels like your dreams might be taken away if you do.
“With all the devastating news coming out of the K-pop world, it’s clearer than ever that the industry needs to change, but these issues aren’t unique to K-pop, and certainly not to Korea,” Lee continues. “Young people all around the world face immense pressure to be perfect, whether it’s fierce competition to get into top schools or toxic scrutiny on social media. While nothing can undo recent tragedies, it’s been inspiring to see young artists bravely leading the conversation on how to be kinder moving forward.”
Indeed, the novel is arriving at a time of disturbing headlines for the industry; several major young K-pop stars have died over the past few months, including Goo Hara and Sulli. “It’s been my hope from the beginning that K-Pop Confidential would be a part of this conversation, while also celebrating the brilliance and fierceness that only K-pop can deliver,” Lee says.
EW can exclusively debut the cover for K-Pop Confidential above. The novel will be published next fall.