Seventeen-year-old Sunny Dae is one of three nonwhite students at his high school; the other two are his best friends. He spends his days using his anxious energy to imagineer practical effects accessories for LARPing, a type of role-playing game in which participants dress up as the characters they play. His parents are workaholics obsessed with keeping up with the well-to-do families in their new neighborhood. His older brother, Gray, is back at home after flaming out as a musician in Los Angeles, licking his wounds in the basement, his rock-star dreams drowned out more and more every day by the dull reality of khakis and neckties.
When Cirrus Soh, a beautiful new student with swagger to spare, mistakes Gray's old room—decked out with rock ’n’ roll posters, guitars and a totally metal wardrobe—for his, Sunny is happy to reinvent himself in the mold of his fallen rock god brother. Convinced Cirrus would recoil if she ever saw his real room or his real self, Sunny starts wearing his brother’s clothes, hides away the nerdy details of his life and, most consequentially, tells Cirrus he is the frontman of a rock band.
Sunny’s rock ’n’ roll charade gives him a confidence and bravado he’s never felt before. With help from his brother and best friends, he even manages to put together an actual rock band. However, author David Yoon isn’t interested telling a coming-of-age story in Super Fake Love Song, but rather a story about coming to know ourselves. Who is Sunny, and why is he so willing to leave the person he was before he met Cirrus behind? “If there were no shame,” asks Sunny, “would we be freer?” Young men openly discussing and dismantling patriarchal shame in positive ways with their peers? You love to see it.
It can be difficult for romantic comedies to strike the perfect balance between romantic and comedic, but in his sophomore outing, Yoon makes it look easy. Every character here is richly drawn, oozing with personality and overflowing with quippy one-liners that keep the laughs coming even as the emotional stakes increase. Roll down your windows and turn your speakers up to 11, because Super Fake Love Song is the real deal.