So, there was a big buzz going about this book, especially for fans of Korean Pop (K-pop). I don’t know much about K-pop or it’s fandom, but I can assure you that this book probably won’t be what you are looking for if you are a fan. It probably won’t even please you if you just want a contemporary YA romance because this “love” is just incomprehensible. I’m not sure who will like this book, actually. I thought it rated three stars, but it is one I would get from the library instead of purchase.
Grace can’t get far enough away from her Nashville home and the family music business, a business that guarantees she is constantly hunted and courted by music hopefuls and paparazzi, but an international boarding school in South Korea is definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, her new roommate and only friend has her own connections to the music business, a twin brother who is a Korean Pop Star. Jason isn’t happy with the trajectory of his career, and he doesn’t seem to care for Grace, but as she watches him slipping into the same trap that caught her country star brother, Grace knows she can’t stand by and do nothing. This is a clean and cute contemporary YA romance with an original setting and plot. There are tantalizing glimpses at the culture and chaos of South Korean life, but the major conflicts are universal – love, loss, expectations, dreams. I point out that the feelings are universal, but don’t expect that to mean it had to transcend cultural ideas or values. The South Korean backdrop is just a backdrop to some degree. The major characters are all Americanized, and the same story could have been set within any other country with little alteration to the basic premise. Did I care? No. Will the Diversity In YA purists care? Probably. The thing that really kept me reading was Grace’s motivation for moving across the world. She clearly had some major issues at home, and I wanted to know more about those but they were only revealed a little at a time. I was pretty engaged with that storyline up until Grace’s mom showed up, and then she became the epitome of stupid American and evil witch combined. It was too much and failed to deliver the nuances that make characters move beyond archetypes and become real people. The relationship between Grace and Jason wasn’t as engaging as I expected. I think that it was suppose to be banter that they were trading, but it was a little too awkward and came across as just mean instead of teasing almost every time. I also had a hard time understanding Jason – I never felt like I was given a clear explanation for his motives or behavior towards Grace, so he felt sort of like a puppet that the author was using to frustrate Grace. While I was just as confused as Grace about his moody behavior, I couldn’t understand how she, someone raised in a world of fame, couldn’t be more rational about what has to go on camera. She came across as unreasonable and self centered often, but he came across as distant and alien just as often. While the ending did soften things for me, I still found that relationship difficult to comprehend. In the end, it was a fast and light read, and even one that I enjoyed enough to finish, but it isn’t something I will think about again now that it is over.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.