Author: R. F. Kuang
Release Date: 25/5/23
I received a free eARC copy from HarperCollins UK ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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. With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society. R. F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.
It is undoubtable that R. F. Kuang can spin a tale. This is completely different from the Poppy war series and from Babel yet it fits perfectly into that satire genre with a little hint of thriller to it. It is perfectly written, creating such vivid characters that slot effortlessly into our world. It is also an incredibly beleivable story.
If you have been around Book Twitter, Bookstagram and Booktube over the past few years you will recognise a lot of the drama that is featured in this book. Even the smallest amount of drama on twitter was recognised in this book and it really grounded it in real life for me. It made it such a relistic story. It makes it seem very voyerist into the publishing industry. The part of me that relishes the Twitter drama delighted in these parts of the book, but also made me see the other side of the fall out. The human reactions to being on the wrong side of the drama was so evocative, it really drew you into June’s narration.
What really caputred me is every single character is detestable in one way, shape or form. No one leaves this book unscathed (apart from Athena’s Mother). Having June being the narrator, trying to aswade she guilt and justify her actions.You cannot possibly root for June, what she did was despicable but the more you learn about the publishing industry professionaly, and how they treat eachother you can’t excuse them either so it is very effective in airing out all the hidden dirty laundry. Even Athena is questionable as we learn about her, if you trust June’s story telling. The description of June’s demise, her anxiety, her depriate attempt to twist the narrative was just so subtle and skillfully done. I loved hating all the characters.
This book also made me a little sad. As a book blogger and apiring author I know the horrible side is clearly there. I don’t think you can ignore the dirty underbelly of the industry but even reading it all laid bare it doesn’t stop me from wanting to play the game. The way this novel plays with some really meta elements causes so many twists and turns. I really enjoyed the story, the way it was told and the message it had overall.
I have seen a number of reviews that rated this low as it is so different Kuang’s fantasy style, they couldn’t like the characters, or even that they found it too meta. But I genuinely think all of those things is what makes this such a special and unique book.
2 thoughts on “ARC Review – Yellowface”
I’m so split on this one. I’m not usually a satire fan, but I do love R. F. Kuang.
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