With Jessica Jung‘s young adult K-Pop novel Shine set to hit shelves in the United States in less than a week, fans of the former Girls’ Generation star have one question on their lips: How much of the book is true to real life? In a new interview with TIME, Jessica has given everyone hints on what to expect.
Jessica told TIME that she decided to write Shine because she “always thought that [she] had a story to tell“. While many idols have shared their experiences of K-Pop stardom, Jessica explained that few people have revealed what it’s like behind the scenes of trainee life.
I had a lot of drama, a lot of competition, boys—everything that I wanted to tell the world about.
— Jessica Jung
The former Girls’ Generation star went on to say that she “never wanted to write an autobiography or a tell-all story“. However, the closer the book’s publication date gets, the more fans are starting to believe Shine is closer to fact than fiction.
Shine‘s Brazilian cover, for example, appears to have a poster on the wall depicting one of Girls’ Generation’s iconic songs, “Oh!”.
Likewise, the book’s Korean edition was recently delayed, with publisher RH Korea retracting a description that called Shine “Jessica’s autobiography“.
And considering the book centers around a Korean-American trainee (Rachel Kim) who’s spent her childhood gearing up to be in a girl group under one of K-Pop’s biggest labels, Shine definitely bears serious similarities to Jessica’s real life. But just how far do those similarities go?
In her interview with TIME, Jessica confirmed that at many of Shine‘s major characters are based on real life. Rachel Kim, naturally, is based on Jessica, while Rachel’s sister Leah Kim is based on Jessica’s real star sister, f(x)‘s Krystal.
Rachel is a reflection of me, of course… Leah is definitely a reflection of my little sister.
However, she wouldn’t confirm whether all the characters have real life inspirations. The love interest, Jason Lee, for example, “may or may not be based on a real person” according to Jessica.
Of course, many fans believe they already know who some of the characters are based on. Jason Lee was described as having “the voice of an angel, smile of the devil, and body of a God” in a “Meet the Idols” profile posted on Jessica’s Instagram story.
As such, many fans are suggesting the character is an amalgamation of three men who have been romantically linked to Jessica: her mogul boyfriend Tyler Kwon, Super Junior‘s Donghae, and 2PM‘s Taecyeon.
Likewise, another “Meet the Idols” profile for a fellow trainee character named Choo Mina immediately drew comparisons to Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung.
Both Sooyoung and the character have excellent dancing skills and come from powerful families. Choo Mina is also described as disliking Jessica’s representative character, Rachel. After Jessica unexpectedly left Girls’ Generation six years ago, fans are still unsure which members she’s on good terms with.
Jessica may not have divulged who the rest of Shine‘s characters are based on (if anyone), but she did confirmed the book’s depiction of the K-Pop industry is “based on experience“. For example, all the rules Rachel Kim is subject to were pulled right from Jessica’s own experience at SM Entertainment, from mandatory dieting to dating bans.
So, fans think it’s a definite possibility that the rest of Shine‘s characters represent other Girls’ Generation members or idols from Jessica’s past. And, Jessica herself confirmed that fans will be “looking for clues” on what’s real and what’s not as the read they book.
It’s going to be like an Easter egg hunt, looking for clues and who’s who, what’s what, what’s true, what’s not.
— Jessica Jung
Wherever the truth lies, Jessica insists Shine is not autobiographical, but rather a tale of real experiences with a fictional twist.
I did try to fictionalize everything… I never wanted to write an autobiography or a tell-all story. I wanted to make good entertainment.
— Jessica Jung