Wednesday, October 04, 2023

I'm Not Here to Make Friends, by Andrew Yang

Hotel California is the name of a obscure reality show whose special niche is that it features an all-Asian cast.  Sabine is a big fan of the show and is ecstatic when she wins the opportunity to star in the third season.  Still, she's apprehensive because she's from Moline IL and not nearly as sparkly as her co-stars who all hail from big cities.

Sparkliest of all is Yoona, who has her own demons to face.  She's trying to prove she doesn't deserve the reputation she has back home of being a mean girl by being super nice to everyone on the show.  But her sarcastic wit rubs sensitive Sabine the wrong way and the two girls are quickly at each other's throats.  

Sabine worries that house is largely allied with Yoona and wonders how she'll make it through the season, but a helpful assistant producer feeds her advice and guides her on how to take charge of the situation.  When that advice starts making things worse, Yoona gets suspicious that the producers of the show are trying to pump up (not diffuse) the drama in search of ratings.  To prevent that from happening, Sabine and Yoona will have to learn to trust each other and break from their past behaviors.

It's a silly storyline that explores classism and bullying in the light context of a reality show fantasy.  Readers will enjoy the way the story shifts perspectives, starting off by portraying Sabine sympathetically and making Yoona seem scheming but then switching the roles about half way.  That serves a nice reminder of how perceptions can be easily misled, which in turn preps us to accept that both girls need to learn to be less judgmental.  That's about as heavy as things get.  This isn't a story that one should take too seriously, but it is certainly entertaining. It's also surprisingly chaste for a story about largely unsupervised teens and only a little rough language pulls this out of a G rating.

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