by Axie Oh
Published by HarperTeen
Released on July 13th, 2021
YOUNG ADULT FICTION—Contemporary, Romance
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.
I really owe it to my very small, local library for having this book on hand. Not only did it make me smile when I was struggling, but it gave me exactly what I was hoping for out of the reading experience.
Jenny was someone I envy deeply. I’m preparing to, at a moment’s notice, move to an entirely new country for my schooling, and here she is doing the exact same thing. Her character was one I really loved reading through the eyes and thoughts of. Jenny is a really caring character, who does have her faults, but overall, she just wants to be close to the people around her. Axie Oh perfectly depicted a teen girl who just wanted to find her way after being told that she lacks that notion, that spark, in her art of being a cellist. Jenny really strived to be better, and even though she had her moments of making teenage mistakes, Oh really wrote her to resonate with the teens that will read this book.
Along with that, I really liked how Jaewoo was crafted throughout the story. We weren’t immediately let into his backstory, and the author created a nice build-up to any angsty scenes that he was involved in. I especially loved that Jenny consistently accused him of being some type of delinquent, as it added to the fun-ness of the story.
However, when it comes to the main side characters Sori and Nathaniel, I just feel like we weren’t given enough! There was so much backstory that we were given, and I honestly felt hungry for more every time I read about them. I desperately hope that the author ends up writing a spinoff featuring them as the main characters, because there is no way that their story is over yet.
I will admit, I found most of this book incredibly predictable. But unlike other books where I disliked that factor, I felt like it was made to be predictable on purpose. This book was written in the light of a K-Pop drama, and I found it to be inconspicuously breaking the “fourth wall” in specific scenes. Axie Oh created something light and easy to read, and it made it easy to follow along and enjoy. That’s something I feel is missing in some contemporaries nowadays, and I loved that we were given this beautiful present of a book.
Writing Style –
Oh’s writing style is addictive. Like I mentioned earlier, I would love to see a spinoff of XOXO, and not just because I want to see more from the side characters, but because I want to read more from this author. Entwined with the story was a masterfully crafted writing, and it made me desperate for more the second I turned that very last page.
This book truly warmed my heart while reading, and it evoked a lot of emotions out of me. I laughed, I squealed, I screamed (in joy and sometimes surprise). There really are no words to explain how incredibly happy this book made me. I was able to escape from our world for a moment while reading, and that’s something I’ll be asking for second and third servings on. For that, I rate this book a wonderful 5 stars.
Axie Oh is a first generation Korean American, born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California – San Diego and holds an MFA from Lesley University in Writing for Young People. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her puppy, Toro.