Monday 17 April 2023

Review: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena's a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn't even get a paperback release. Nobody 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 to the British and French war efforts 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.

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📌 Disclaimer: I received an e-arc for review from the publisher 
📌 Publication date: 25/05/2023

I'm going to start by saying that this review is not going to be the most articulate, but alas I shall try.  

If you're going into Yellowface hoping for likable characters then be warned now that you're not going to find any. In my opinion, the book's purpose isn't for any of the characters to be likable. I went into it the same way I do with mysteries, not expecting to like any of them, but there for the plot. 

Yellowface is very meta. If you're familiar with Book Twitter a lot of the discussions and discourse in it will feel familiar. In a way, it's a relevant and necessary expose on the climate of publishing, which for the most part is glamourised. This shows it in a different light, although it's fiction I feel a lot of what Kuang has put in Yellowface is a real reflection of the bookish world. 

I flew through Yellowface in all it's satirical glory, needing to know what the unhinged main character would do next. Although I'm a big fantasy reader I was never interested in reading R.F. Kuang's Poppy War trilogy. Her next book two books Babel and Yellowface took me by surprise, I can't wait to see what she publishes next!


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