Swimming Through the Dawn

Book One of the Idol Pursuits Trilogy

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No dream survives contact with life.

Swimming Through the Dawn begins the captivating adventure of a dreamer who tempts the odds by starting her very own K-Pop act. What could possibly go wrong?

18-year-old Heather Moon is not your average wannabe idol. With a shimmering personality, powerful voice, and magnetic stage presence, her future seemed bright. An unexpected liaison with a company executive, however, leaves those aspirations in shambles. Booted from a Korean agency that had long nurtured her talent, Heather returns to Los Angeles for college. But dreams of stardom seldom die easily.

Bolstered by a plucky band of misfits, she forms Made in Heaven, a seven-member girl group. While initial efforts seem promising, it's clear not everyone shares their vision. To make matters worse, Heather's father issues an ultimatum that will shape the rest of her life. Can she and her friends realize their ambitions before they're derailed once and for all by the pressures of impending adulthood?

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The Reviews

A fun and interesting read on K-Pop and the music industry itself, I think everyone could enjoy this book

Swimming Through the Dawn follows an unconventionally formed K-Pop group trying to make their start in America. They have to deal with many challenges, not least of which being their decision to form a Korean music group in the United States. In addition, they realize the difficulties of the music business and deal with personal setbacks.

Rioux's book comes at a time of great interest in K-Pop, making its dive into the culture of idols and groups all the more intriguing. Rioux contextualizes the style with others through history, including classical, 80s pop, and classic rock to name a few. I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity that came with describing musical inspiration and the songs Rioux had to create with just words. Overall, the cultural and musical information seemed well-researched, but not extensive.

Rioux also confronts the issue of racism in the United States, though not in an overly complex way. The goal seemed to be simply to represent the truth while letting words and actions speak for themselves. I think this could be effective for unexposed or even slightly prejudiced people in starting a conversation, as they are in the shoes of the characters. I wouldn't have minded a more detailed perspective, but as music was really the focus of the book it was appropriate.

The book is pretty plot-driven, but also had well-placed character moments. Remarkably, I thought Rioux did an amazing job of developing their personalities without being able to spend lots of time on each. The message of music uplifting people and the importance of working for the group is certainly in play here - of course some members are focused on, but it's clear that Rioux cares about each and wants readers to as well.

I'll certainly be recommending this to my friends! The tone and subject are so entertaining and fascinating, I have a hard time imagining who wouldn't like this book.

- Reviewed by Shai Palmer for Reedsy Discovery

R. P. Rioux's Swimming Through the Dawn is a story about dreaming big and believing you can. As the first installment in the Made in Heaven series, this book captures readers' attention early and keeps them hooked until the end. With all the spot-on references, it is evident that Rioux's knowledge about the Korean culture and the entertainment industry runs deep. Anything related to K-pop is usually perceived as shallow but this book begs to differ. It has a classy and intellectual tone, tackles relevant social issues, and breaks stereotypes. Aside from the sassy Asian protagonists, a few more races are present too, making the story diverse. The world-building is great and the imagery is fantastic. Mirroring today's sad reality, this coming-of-age debut novel is angsty, realistic, and relatable. Whether K-pop fans or just music lovers in general, readers will surely enjoy Swimming Through the Dawn.

- Reviewed by Risah Salazar

Swimming Through the Dawn is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, contemporary and cross-cultural sub-genres, and was penned by author R. P. Rioux. Written for young adult reading audiences, the work does contain some moderate use of explicit language, reference to sexual situations, and one violent but non-graphic moment. The opening novel to the Made In Heaven series, we focus on the world of rising stars and K-Pop music in this delightful and charming novel. Protagonist Heather Moon sees her dreams fall apart after training for a debut that never comes, so when she returns to California, she sets out with some new friends to revive her dream and do it on her own terms.

Author R. P. Rioux brings a unique and exciting new genre of fiction to life in this enthralling story of chasing your dreams and staying true to who you are. Protagonist Heather Moon is an excellent heroine for the piece, vulnerable but tough and very easy to adore and root for. I really enjoyed the descriptive work put into St. Ignatius University and the cultures and people she meets there, and the commitment to all the new characters was great because it fully realizes the other bandmates as much as Heather herself. There were also a few more difficult moments of real, deep drama which I thought were highly effective to the plot. Overall, I would definitely recommend Swimming Through the Dawn for YA fans looking for something unique in the contemporary drama category.

- Reviewed by K.C. Finn

Swimming Through the Dawn is the first entry in the Made in Heaven K-Pop series by R. P. Rioux and a beautiful story for fans of music. This is a story of what it takes to become a legend and Heather is a character that I liked from the very beginning. She follows her passion and there is every sign that this passion will help her. Her wit is strong and piercing and it is interesting to follow her intelligence and determination. The author passes a powerful message through this character: If you can’t fit, create your own path. That path becomes an inspiration for others. The writing is beautiful, with great prose and exciting dialogues. I was pulled in from the opening pages, especially when Heather encounters Chul and has an exciting conversation with him. I saw in her a woman with character, her strong wit and her worldview fascinating. Swimming Through the Dawn showcases the world of K-pop music and explores a culture that young adult readers will adore. Swimming Through the Dawn is a delightful read that feels like a movie; it is fast-paced, well-plotted, and features memorable characters.

- Reviewed by Gobi Jane

Youtube Playlist

Swimming Through the Dawn is chock full of music and movie references. I've assembled a Youtube playlist so you can immerse yourself in the world of the characters. Some entries will no doubt be familiar, but I'm certain you'll find pleasant surprises along the way. Enjoy.

Spotify Playlist

This is a music only version of the above playlist.