Yellowface Review

  • Author: Rebecca Kuang
  • Series: Standalone
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • No. of pages: 350
  • Dates read: 06.05.2023 – 08.05.2023
  • Publishing Date: 25.05.2023
  • Star Rating: 5 stars

Plot: 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 labourers 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.

Thank you to Harper Collins for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trying to put into coherent sentences how great this book was and how much I loved it is hard! I just want to scream about it forever!

So for a bit of context – I have read 2 books in The Poppy War series… LOVE THEM. I also read Babel and I was expecting to love it loads just as I did The Poppy War but unfortunately, I really struggled with it. This made going into Yellowface a bit of a nervy experience. I desperately wanted to love it!

THANKFULLY!!!! I can say that I enjoyed it so much. It was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I hated having to go to work and not read the book, I hated having to go to sleep and not read the book. It had captured my attention so much.

I think the strongest element of this novel was its protagonist. I loved being in the mind of someone as complicated and unlikable as June. It was so interesting to not be following the hero of the story but the villain. A villain who made excuse after excuse after excuse trying to justify their actions! I was fascinated by Kuang’s characterisation of June as I think she did a great job in creating our unreliable narrator. Watching June run right up to the point of why what she is doing is wrong and racist and then completely missing it was so infuriating. I found myself cringing uncomfortably at the ways June would speak to people, hold herself and convince herself that was she was doing was fine. Do not get me started on the editing process of that novel. It was giving very much American Dirt/The Help vibes. I could not look away from her and her actions.

I was literally screaming “READ THE ROOM” to her numerous times through my read-through. THIS IS NOT FOR YOU JUNE!

Delving into the failings of the publishing industry was very interesting indeed (though I do wish Kuang went even deeper), from the pen name to June’s author photos to the panels. Like I was reading this book and screaming ‘ Are none of you putting 2+2 together and realising how offensive this all is?” But that’s the point. Kuang is highlighting true-to-life things that have been happening for ages. We are supposed to be outraged!

I also enjoyed being able to learn more about how a book launch is curated. There were loads of references about the industry that I understood due to being a bookseller which was super fun but I also enjoyed learning more. I also really enjoyed dissecting Book Twitter and the book-related side of most apps. Normally I do not care for analysing social media but I felt that Kuang did a really good job of portraying a nuanced look at the way authors and readers interact with one another.

I would call this plot a car crash. Specifically watching someone willingly create a car crash and then blame the other driver. That was what it was like following June through this story and I loved every second of it.