Kan’s Crush-itis: Love Identity in Under Red Skies | Teen Ink

Kan’s Crush-itis: Love Identity in Under Red Skies

September 18, 2023
By jellifish DIAMOND, Foster City, California
jellifish DIAMOND, Foster City, California
50 articles 0 photos 0 comments

"QQ, an instant messaging app, had become popular, and I checked it every evening simply to see if Wei was on it. When I received a message from him, I’d get butterflies in my stomach. A lot of my journal was about him: what he said, what he did, and how I felt about him. I printed a photo he took for me, framed it, and put it on my desk. In a sense, he was my first love—though we were not together. We talked about everything. There was nothing that made me happier than being with him…

I never asked Wei about us. I was afraid our relationship would be ruined if he found out I expected more, if he didn’t. I preferred to keep it as it was rather than risk having no relationship at all" (208–209).


In Karoline Kan’s memoir, Under Red Skies, she writes about her first love with a boy named Wei, whom she meets in university. Kan spends all of her time thinking about Wei, her crush on him and how afraid she is of love. Kan uses contrast between positive and negative tones to create feelings of uncertainty around her crush, mirroring the general discomfort that Kan has towards love. 

In the former paragraph, Kan uses imagery and metaphors to express her enthusiastic feelings about Wei. The imagery of “butterflies in [her] stomach” signifies feelings of joy and young love because of her crush; butterflies are commonly used as a metaphor for feelings of extreme excitement. Kan even tracks “what he said, what he did” in her journal; the repetition of structure indicates how regularly she obsesses over her crush. The passionate tone Kan conveys in this long, lively paragraph about Wei contrasts with the short, shocking paragraph that follows. In the latter paragraph, Kan writes with a voice of unease and timidness, even outright saying that “[she] was afraid.” This abrupt turn in tone—from high-spirited to disastrous—reflects the wavering, conflicted thoughts and emotions Kan has about Wei.  

The atypical behavior Kan displays towards Wei, in her quiet cautiousness, wanting more, but “never ask[ing] Wei,” is the antithesis of her standard behavior. Throughout the memoir, Kan always takes initiative to improve her life; she questions everything known to her—the government, society, textbooks given in school, and even her family—but with Wei, Kan prefers to stay in the unknown, never questioning him, because of her dilemma to “risk having no relationship.”  

Kan’s fear and indecision is a side of herself that she opens up about through her struggles and vulnerabilities with love, divulging a more authentic and down-to-earth aspect of herself. The abrupt contrast in both Kan’s tone and behavior reveals a truth in Kan’s experience. The contrasting imagery Kan uses whilst narrating her crush on Wei imparts feelings of apprehension and insecurity that only appear though her life-long experience with love. 


Works Cited:

Kan, Karoline. Under Red Skies: The Life and Times of a Chinese Millennial. Hurst and 

Company, 2021. 

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