Y/N: A Novel (Hardcover)
“Wondrous and weird . . . Y/N resists the junkiness of the internet . . . against which a well-formed novel like this counteracts, a blast of cleansing heat.” —New York Times
"Gorgeous." —New Yorker
"High Brow x Brilliant." —NY Mag (Approval Matrix)
"Piercing, feverish, and frequently astonishing." —Entertainment Weekly
"Utterly brilliant." —Cosmopolitan
"A true novel of the era." —Elle
"Freakish and hallucinatory." —Vulture
"Absurdly funny." —Ms. Magazine
"Riveting and innovative." —TIME
"Sophisticated." —Chicago Review of Books
"Strange, haunting, and undeniably beautiful." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"One of the most daring novels of the year." —Bookpage (Starred Review)
Surreal, hilarious, and shrewdly poignant—a novel about a Korean American woman living in Berlin whose obsession with a K-pop idol sends her to Seoul on a journey of literary self-destruction.
It’s as if her life only began once Moon appeared in it. The desultory copywriting work, the boyfriend, and the want of anything not-Moon quickly fall away when she beholds the idol in concert, where Moon dances as if his movements are creating their own gravitational field; on live streams, as fans from around the world comment in dozens of languages; even on skincare products endorsed by the wildly popular Korean boyband, of which Moon is the youngest, most luminous member. Seized by ineffable desire, our unnamed narrator begins writing Y/N fanfic—in which you, the reader, insert [Your/Name] and play out an intimate relationship with the unattainable star.
Then Moon suddenly retires, vanishing from the public eye. As Y/N flies from Berlin to Seoul to be with Moon, our narrator, too, journeys to Korea in search of the object of her love. An escalating series of mistranslations and misidentifications lands her at the headquarters of the Kafkaesque entertainment company that manages the boyband until, at a secret location, together with Moon at last, art and real life approach their final convergence.
From a conspicuous new talent comes Y/N, a provocative literary debut about the universal longing for transcendence and the tragic struggle to assert one’s singular story amidst the amnesiac effects of globalization. Crackling with the intellectual sensitivity of Elif Batuman and the sinewy absurdism of Thomas Pynchon, Esther Yi’s prose unsettles the boundary between high and mass art, exploding our expectations of a novel about “identity” and offering in its place a sui generis picture of the loneliness that afflicts modern life.
About the Author
Esther Yi was born in Los Angeles in 1989 and currently lives in Leipzig, Germany.
"Strange, funny, and at times gorgeous . . . Full of characters that squirm and run together, as if the reader were trying to decipher an out-of-focus eye chart, the book evokes how precarious identity itself can be. It also explores the consequences of subsuming your entire life in a desire for what may or may not exist . . . Yi displays a keen sense of irony; her oneiric, ceremonious writing has the consistency of a poem put in a blender with an academic paper."
—Katy Waldman, New Yorker
"[A] savage story about a young woman's rapturous descent into our modern-day religion of celebrity worship, fanfiction, and ubiquitous parasociality. The girls who get it, get it."
—Delia Cai, Vanity Fair
"[A] piercing, feverish, and frequently astonishing debut."
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"Much mainstream writing about K-pop in the West . . . [is] chipperly respectable and pretty boring . . . In contrast to the standard narratives, Y/N is less interested in demystifying a cultural phenomenon by creating a legible justification for why someone becomes obsessed; it simply throws readers down the hole of obsession in all its fevered absurdity . . . Y/N is more freakish and hallucinatory than your average satire."
—Cat Zhang, Vulture
"This debut novel, a Kafkaesque fever dream about fandom and obsession, arrives right on time . . . Haunting yet playful, immersive yet unreal, Y/N is a brilliant dissection of consumption in all its forms—how we consume art, and how it consumes us."
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
"Y/N is an utterly brilliant, shining, and mesmerizing debut that will make you rethink everything you know about fandom, celebrity, and parasocial relationships."
—Tamara Fuentes, Cosmopolitan
"[A] clever debut . . . a true novel of the era."
—Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle
"A riveting and innovative tale about identity, fandom, and art."
—Laura Zornosa, TIME
"A surreal quest that seems tailor-made for the present moment . . . [Y/N is] a heady, immersive journey into musical fandom and cultural dislocation."
"Y/N is a funny and deeply original meditation on love, devotion, and spirituality, and one need not be familiar with the world of K-pop fandoms to enjoy Yi’s brilliant prose . . . [this] is a book that demands to be read and reread."
—Angela Hui, 48 Hills
"[In Y/N,] love and obsession are at odds, placed against a backdrop of an intense K-pop fandom, a balance Yi strikes flawlessly . . . With Yi’s clean prose, it’s easy to see the slippery slope from fan to obsessive adorer at the expense of self."
—Hannah Ryder, West Trade Review
"Y/N is one of the most daring novels of the year. Yi has set a new standard for internet-influenced literature by showing that online and literary narratives exist hand in hand, creating the world with every word."
—Eric A. Ponce, Bookpage, Starred Review
"Filled with longing, Yi captures the style of Elif Batuman and the absurdism of Thomas Pynchon to create a fascinating and complicated depiction of how we create and assert our identity."
—Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books
"Esther Yi’s debut is absurdly funny, brilliantly surreal and wildly unique. It speaks to 21st century technosocietal conundrums of celebrity obsession, loneliness, voyeurism, media and consumption."
—Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine
"[A] witty, worldly romp into a subculture of boy bands, fanfic, and online parasocial relationships."
—Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Sumptuous, precise, and full of pulsing, startling life, Yi captures with finesse the rhythms of internet voyeurism, the corporeality of parasocial desire, and the very heartbeat of contemporary longing.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
"Bold, audacious, and stylish, Esther Yi is a marvelous writer who reminds me of Yoko Tawada and Marie NDiaye. Esther Yi takes our contemporary human culture, dismantles it, and makes it into something new. The clarity of her absurd vision is singular and important."
—Patrick Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
"Crisp zeitgeist setups within a transnational now—Esther Yi's sharp, sculpted paragraphs beat with a hilarious demonheart that'll make you cry. I loved it."
—Eugene Lim, author of Search History
“Esther Yi’s debut novel reads with decisive, alarming confidence, in a prose style that’s both intellectually rigorous and playfully perverse. Yi has a preternatural sense for the ways we speak past each other, locked as we are in the whirlpools of our own devotion—Y/N reveals the unexpected places desire can lead us, if only we are willing to lose ourselves.”
—Larissa Pham, author of Pop Song
"Esther Yi's every paragraph is revelatory, unexpected, with an intense capacity to see the world anew, such that we are empowered again in the matter of astonishment. I admire her work so much."
—Rick Moody, author of Hotels of North America
"A few months ago, my boyfriend dropped The Paris Review into my lap and said, 'You have to read this story.' I’m not always good at following through with these recommendations, so he proceeded to stand there until I did. And, reader, I loved it. The story in question was 'Moon' by Esther Yi . . . When Esther Yi paints a picture, she does it with bright, bold brushstrokes . . . Please take this blurb as me dropping this story/upcoming book in front of you with similar urgency."
—Katie Yee, Literary Hub
"Surreal and stylish. Yi delivers an absurd, but also grounded, expose on internet obsession. It’s almost like the book-version of Ingrid Goes West. You’ll belly laugh, cringe, cry, and at the end of the day connect with Yi’s main character."
—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
"Yi’s absurd, hypnotic, and very funny novel is about obsession, sublimation, and weird as hell fanfiction about Moon, a boy from the book’s BTS stand-in. Very much Being John Malkovich energy."
—Arianna Rebolini, Reading Habits