Y/N. A Novel
“[A] stunning debut . . . Strange, haunting, and undeniably beautiful, [Y/N] shines.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A surreal quest that seems tailor-made for the present moment . . . [Y/N is] a heady, immersive journey into musical fandom and cultural dislocation.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Perhaps never before has there been a book I had to read more. I love literary fiction. I love ‘sad girl’ literary fiction especially. I love fan culture. I love kpop. I think I love this book . . . Esther Yi writes sentences the way I like to read sentences: clipped, pointed, acerbic, honest, and delightfully funny. Y/N captivated me. It’s an absurd and surreal exploration of the transcendent rise that comes with singular obsession and identity-through-devotion alongside the uneasy and uncomfortable fall that follows.” —Sarah R., Bookseller at Powell’s
“Yi . . . has earned comparisons to Elif Batuman, Thomas Pynchon, Yoko Tawada, and Marie NDiaye.” —The Millions
“[A] clever debut . . . a true novel of the era.” —Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle
“[An] engrossing and destabilizing riff on fandom and mass media.” —Celia Mattison, Vulture
“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
“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
“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
“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
It’s an astonishing debut. Unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I certainly loved the voice right from the off, and laughed out loud with delight at several sentences. I adore both the bonkerness of it and the novel’s deep seriousness, more Kafka than magic realism, but with more humour, perhaps more like Lewis Carroll in that the author conjures up an entirely plausible parallel reality. — Christopher Potter, Editorial Director Europa Editions UK
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
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
For readers of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, Either/Or by Elif Batuman, and The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
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.
- Publishers Weekly Spring 2023 Literary Fiction: Top 10
- Vulture, “Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2023”
- Elle, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
- Entertainment Weekly, A “Not to Miss” in 2023
- The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
- Literary Hub, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
- Goodreads, A Buzziest Debut Novel of the Year
- Publishers Lunch “Buzz Books” Highly Anticipated
- Cosmopolitan, The 15 Best Books of 2023 (So Far) You Should Pick Up on Your Next Bookstore Trip