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Publisher's Summary

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022: Harper’s Bazaar • Vogue • Good Housekeeping • CrimeReads • BookBub • Veranda • Shondaland • Debutiful • PureWow • and more!

A profoundly moving and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties that bind families together—or break them apart—as a young Korean American man’s search for answers about his girlfriend’s mysterious death becomes a soul-searching journey into his own bi-cultural identity 

When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend Yu-jin has committed suicide, he’s sure it can't be true. She was successful, ambitious, happy, just on the cusp of graduating from university and claiming the future she’d always dreamed of.  

Min, on the other hand, born to an American father and Korean mother, has never felt quite the same certainty as Yu-jin about his life’s path. After growing up in California, where he always felt “too Korean” to fit in, he’s moved to Seoul in the hope that exploring his Korean heritage will help him find a sense of purpose. And when he meets Yu-jin, little does he know that their carefree relationship will set off a chain of events with tragic consequences for them both.

Devastated by Yu-jin’s death, Min throws himself into finding out why she could have secretly wanted to die. Or did she? With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

As Yu-jin’s story—a fraught exploration of selfhood, coming-of-age, and family expectations—collides with Min’s, the result is an engrossing thriller that poses powerful, urgent questions about cultural identity, family bonds, secrets, and what it truly means to belong. 

"Transportive and poignant."—Susie Yang

"Spellbinding."—Jamie Ford

"A young writer to watch."—Jess Walter

"Unforgettable."—Abi Daré

"The most compelling debut novel I've read in years."—Alexander Chee

"Heart-stopping and exquisitely plotted."—Patricia Engel

"Will stay with me for a long time."—Angie Kim

"Gorgeous."—Julia Phillips

©2022 Soon Wiley (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

When We Fell Apart is a marvelous debut novel, moving and suspenseful, a reminder that the greatest mysteries are those of being and belonging. Soon Wiley is a young writer to watch." (Jess Walter, number one New York Times best-selling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions)

"A lyrical exposition on what it’s like to be biracial, with one foot firmly planted in two distinct worlds, never completely fitting in, but capable of seeing what others do not. A lonely, heartbreaking, spellbinding story of love, self-discovery, and belonging." (Jamie Ford, New York Times best-selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet)

“Propulsive and deeply felt, Soon Wiley's phenomenal debut When We Fell Apart takes on the friction between family bonds, cultural expectations, and personal desires in a way that feels both urgent and intensely real. Even as I raced through the pages to find out what happened to Yu-jin, for me the true heart of the book was Min, and his search for a sense of belonging that neither America nor Korea is quite able to offer him. His story is truly unforgettable.” (Abi Daré, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl with the Louding Voice)

What listeners say about When We Fell Apart

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  • 10-02-22

Excellent read

Soon Wiley takes the reader on the most incredible journey that leaves you feeling such empathy towards the main character of Yu-Jin. Do not miss this story of true love and the fight that can exist to be able to even contemplate love.

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  • 07-02-22

Talented Writer

The book kept my attention, the author’s writing style is appealing, he draws you in to the story and makes you care about the characters and what is happening to them. I enjoyed listening to his at times mesmerizing descriptions of surroundings, he definitely has a way with words, painting lovely visuals. I liked the story as it drew me in, with its mystery and character studies. I liked the way the mystery peaked my interest throughout most of the book. The narrators did a nice job. The story itself lost interest for me as it progressed, if I were an editor I would have tightened it a bit, with less angsty introspection, and a deeper development of the relationship between the two main characters to support the storyline - minor issues, though, compared to the writer’s overall talent. I look forward to reading more by him.

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O.K. story but took a long time to get there

Way touch detail about everything. Felt like it dragged on. Interesting story though. Very different.

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Beautiful first novel

Wonderful writing! This beautiful first novel by Soon Whiley is sure to stay with you for a long time.

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Stunning and thrilling

A thrilling and engaging mystery that has the best elements of the genre, but also offers something entirely new through a cast of characters I’ve been waiting a long time to encounter in fiction. As a bi-racial Korean American, listening to Min’s story made me realize it was the first novel that featured a character whose interior life spoke to aspects of my own that I’ve never seen represented in fiction, or any media for that matter. Regardless of your background though, the humanity of the characters is what makes this story a marvel. A must read/listen.