Monday, September 11, 2023

NEW REVIEW: Yellowface by R. F. Kuang


Yellowface is one of those novels you almost hate read; it's kinda of like watching Succession in that I detest all of the characters at any given moment and yet I can't look away from whatever trouble they've managed to get into. 

In Yellowface we follow the story of June Heyward, a young, white mediocre writer who is absolutely insufferable and yet I cannot look away from her. She's insanely (...and well maybe just insane) jealous of a friend/enemy/acquaintance (depends on what part of the book you're in), Athena, because of Athena's popularity and sales in the book world. They both came up through the same writing programs and both sold their debuts but June's flopped and Athena's soared. So for the entirety of the novel, we're in June's head as she justifies one terrible thing she does or thinks after another. She's truly insufferable and yet recognizable because if we don't know someone like her in real life, we've probably seen someone like her on social media or tv. 

The synopsis will tell you that Athena has an unfortunate death that June witnesses and it's from that death that majority of this novel takes place. June steals a manuscript, sells it as her own, and then gets on the rollercoaster of twitter darling to twitter pariah to twitter nobody. She's continually making things worse and then trying to make them better and in her own twisted mind, it's all okay. I've always thought that you can't truly lie to yourself because you know the truth, but boy does June try. 

The one thing I noted as I read is that Yellowface is that it's very much a novel for those who are very online. If you don't really follow book twitter, June's highs and lows due to what's being posted may fall flat for you. But if you do follow book twitter, you'll definitely recognize the drama that seems to follow the publishing world all the damn time.




“Hard to put down, harder to forget.” — Stephen King, #1 New York Times bestselling author

White lies. Dark humor. Deadly consequences… Bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn’t write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American—in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R.F. Kuang, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Babel. 

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying alienation of social media. R.F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable. 

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