FRANKLY IN LOVE: Negotiating Two Cultural Landscapes


Written by: David Yoon
Read by: Raymond J. Lee
10 Hours and 12 Minutes
PRHAudio \ Imprint: Listening Library (Audio)
Ages 14 and up
Release Date: September 10, 2019

An Instant New York Times Bestseller and #1 Indie Bestseller!

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.

In this moving debut novel—featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author—David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.


I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

I don’t read much YA these days, but this appealed and so I downloaded it from Simon & Schuster. It’s a bittersweet story about a smart young man, first generation Korean-American, with remarkable emotional maturity negotiating his way through the landscape of his first romantic relationships, keeping old friendships, finishing high school, and the minefield of being a first-generation Korean-American.  I feel it has as much to tell adults as it does teens.

Frank’s parents and the small Korean-Immigrant cluster that comprises their social circle have not adopted American culture and expect him to fit both cultures but they also want him to be a good Korean offspring. 

There are many people, today, in this position.  Should they be one or the other:  should they follow the culture in which they are living or the ethnic keeping of their parents? 

Frank respects his parents’ culture, but he doesn’t live in, nor was he born in, Korea.  It’s a tension-fraught situation that can cause irretrievable ruptures in a family as it nearly does in Frank’s family.

Frank recognizes his parents’ flaws: difficulty in expressing emotion, poor English, completely unsupported and illogical racist ideas about Latinos and African Americans; ideas held despite owning a convenience store in a “Poor, sun-crumbled part of Southern California largely populated by Mexican- and African-Americans.”  Frank says it is a “world away” from the suburb in wherein they live. And, despite how they talk about the people in the store’s neighborhood, they know their customers, their lives, their children, their victories and defeats.

I’m not going to really discuss the plot mentioned in the book.  It’s often entertaining, it can be dreadfully sad, and it is Frank’s brilliant maturity, beyond that of his years that brings the plot around as he develops additional experience and maturity.The point there being that as Frank faces his life, he is open to his parents and his friends and learns from them.  He truly loves his parents.

I would love to know if author, David Yoon and the narrator, Raymond J. Lee spent hours collaborating on how Frank’s character should be read because the sweet, wise and hopefulness reflected by Lee on Frank’s character could not be more perfect.  Lee is an actor, but i felt his reading walked that fine line between acting a role and narrating a character.

When my people came to the US,  it was a lot about surviving, and assimilating.There’s some sex involved — not graphic and not a lot —  and it does happen IRL, so it’s realistic, but a little strange to see it labeled for ages 14 and up.  I am sure parents are the best judge of what their kids are ready for.  My dad used to freak out about my reading long after I was in high school so I was even more enticed bythose forbidden ideas. .

To keep this appropriately short, I enjoyed this book, found it well-written, well-narrated and mature.  It brings insight into the life of a first-generation American, possibly into the mind of any teen, but I think there is a particular set of issues confronting youth whose parents are a from a different culture, of a different race, culture, or religion. It is a beautiful story.