Author: Axie Oh
Release Date: July 13th, 2021
Genre: Young Adult – Romance – Contemporary
My rating in stars:
My rating in words:
I really liked it
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.
Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.
When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
Well, this was just such a nice, adorable and heartwarming palate cleanser of a read. The perfect read for when you’re feeling a slump coming on or when you need something lighter to read in between heavy fantasy series. At least, it was for me.
XOXO has been on my radar for a while. First of all, the cover is absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, it’s about a romance between a Korean-American cello prodigy and a k-pop idol. A k-pop idol romance. Be still my beating heart. As you may know, I adore k-pop. And I’m also pretty fond of forbidden romance stories. So this definitely spoke to me from the start.
But did it also live up to the hype?
My answer is YES. I adored this read and flew through it in record time. I meant it when I said this was the perfect palate cleanser. It’s a story to get lost in. In fact, it felt very much like a great k-drama. All the tropes, meet-cutes and feels you’d encounter in a rom-com k- drama were present in this book and IT.WAS.GLORIOUS.
Is it perfect? No. As much as this felt like a k-drama, it also felt a little rushed, as opposed to a k-drama. I wish we had more time with the characters, more time to go on this journey with them and to really make all the feelings come out more. More scenes between the love interests to make the romance more believable. For me, this book would have only improved with more pages and more depth.
That said, I still really enjoyed the pages we did get. Jenny was a fun main character, a Korean-American cellist who is super ambitious but has also has hit a little slump in her cello-career. One evening, she meets a stranger in her uncle’s karaoke bar and has an unplanned but amazing night with him. They share a connection, but he needs to leave and she doesn’t hear from him again. Until three months later, when Jenny temporarily moves to South-Korea with her mom to take care of her grandmother. Jenny enrolls in an elite arts academy and finds out the mysterious boy goes there too. But he’s not just any boy, he’s a member of one of the biggest k-pop bands out there. And the last thing he needs is a dating scandal.
Of course, as someone who is dreaming about being able to visit South-Korea some day, I loved discovering Seoul through Jenny’s eyes. The city felt like a vibrant character and the food descriptions were mouth-wateringly good. Also, I’ll never be able to say no to an academy with dorm rooms setting. And obviously, the forbidden romance aspect was as angsty as it was exciting and fun to read about. And all the k-pop industry insights and ‘behind-the-scenes’ were super entertaining and intriguing. What also really made me happy, was that there was never any judging between the two different music styles of the classical Jenny and the poppy Jaewoo. Really, there was only a love of music in all its forms, which I absolutely adored.
But surprisingly, what I enjoyed the most of all in this book were the friendships. Especially the friendship between Jenny and Sori, her roommate who is verrry frosty towards Jenny at first. But also the friendship and comradery between the four boys in XOXO, the k-pop band that the book title refers to. I’m actually really hoping we’ll get another story focusing on Sori and another XOXO boy.
So overall, I highly recommend this story if you’re a lover of k-pop and/or k-dramas, forbidden celebrity romances, friendships or just looking for a heartwarming, fast-paced and light YA contemporary read.
“I’m saying, people do strange things to protect their hearts. But when you’re afraid, your heart is closed, and it’s never the right time, but when your heart is open, and you’re willing to be brave enough to take a chance, the time is always right.”
“Here, let me explain it to you in Jenny-speak. You know that movie we watched earlier tonight? Ajeossi. There’s a quote Won Bin’s character says that roughly translates to, ‘People who live for tomorrow should fear the people who live for today.’ Do you know why that is?”
“No,” I drawl, “but you’re going to tell me.”
“Because the people who live for tomorrow don’t take risks. They’re afraid of the consequences. while the people who live for today have nothing to lose, so they fight tooth and nail. I’m saying that maybe you should stop caring so much about your future, about getting into music school, about what’ll come after, and . . . live a little. Have new experiences, make new friends. I promise you can get the life you want now, if you just live in it.”