Y/N: A Novel (Hardcover)
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
Esquire, A Best Book of Winter 2023
Cosmopolitan, "Best Books of 2023 so far"
The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
Literary Hub, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
Goodreads, A Buzziest Debut Novel of the Year
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.
“[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."
"[A] piercing, feverish, and frequently astonishing debut."
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"[An] engrossing and destabilizing riff on fandom and mass media."
—Celia Mattison, 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
“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
"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
"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
"An acerbic and exacting look at parasocial relationships and the solipsism of obsession."
—Kelsey Ford, Bookseller at Powell's
"How is this a debut novel? Y/N by Esther Yi is a masterclass in literary surrealism. It stands out as an alarmingly earnest declaration of the limits of human connection against our real-world backdrop of rising celebrity obsession . . . This book alchemized something in me—whether that’s a fear of all of the possible vectors of human intimacy, or a desire to stalk the impossible goal of universality in art, I’ll only know for sure after a second (and third and fourth) read."
—Wulfe Wulfemeyer, Bookseller at Raven Bookstore
"Y/N is a one-of-a-kind journey through the world of fandom obsession and self-destruction . . . Y/N digs deep at the desire for connection and the loneliness of losing yourself. Yi’s writing is humorous, philosophical, and unafraid. It is a feat in 200 pages."
—Nikita Imafidon, Bookseller at Raven Bookstore