A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.
Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.
She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.
Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published June 9th, 2015, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
Basically, here’s my ultimatum for you: If you want to read this book because you like Kpop, don’t read it. If you only get one thing out of this review, this ^^ should be it.
I think that with HELLO, I LOVE YOU, I really got to know the definition of love/hate. I loved that a book was being written about Korea and about kpop, but I also hated it. It seemed too much like it was this fan-fiction dream story. In the words of Goodreads user sunset shimmer,
Gurl. This sounds to me like it’s specifically made to fulfill the fantasies of certain hormonal young K-POP fans. But, I suppose I could give it the benefit of the doubt. Ish.
That’s exactly how I feel like it is. But as someone who is Korean, is a kpop fan, and loves Korean music and culture in general, I had to check out this book.
On my general opinion, I didn’t love the book. I would say 1.5 stars. It just didn’t work for me, my reasons for which I’ll be going over below. Maybe that’s because it just wasn’t real enough to me, but it wasn’t enough period. There were good parts, there are bad parts, just like every book. It’s a far cry from Park Sakura-Lopez, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel like Chad Future or even an above-par fan fiction. I would say that if you want a book like Anna and the French Kiss, go for it. I wouldn’t say HELLO, I LOVE YOU is as good as ANNA, but it’s along the same vein.
Here’s the thing. The first thing that turned me off were the characters. In the blurb, it makes it seem like Grace is this sweet girl and Jason is just this huge jerk, the likes of which we’ve all seen in YA before. No biggie, let’s roll.
That’s only half the story. Turns out, Grace is a jerk too. A big one. She can “hold her own” with Jason or whatever, I’m not saying she can’t. What I’m saying is that that makes her entirely unlikable to me, picking a fight with him for absolutely no reason (Jason does that too) and then turning around and saying she has a crush on him? No. I’m not about that.
Also, her empty-headedness. She impulsively decides to move to South Korea, a country she knows nothing about. She doesn’t speak the language, understand the culture and isn’t really inclined to learn anything about the country. I was constantly frustrated with her, because any time that she began to get a little bit better in my mind, she would say or do something to ruin it. She’s ignorant of cultural differences and has this mindset that Korea is some third-world country, with the mentions of squatty potties and being unfamiliar with Western music.
“Why are there so many different levels of formality?” I ask Jason, praying he’s feeling gracious. “I don’t get it.”
“It has to do with respect,” he says, shocking me. “You want to give respect to people who have authority over you or are older.”
“Okay, I get that, but seven levels, really?”
He doesn’t answer.
“It’s dumb” pops out of my mouth before I can stop it, and I mentally kick myself. Just what i need–to insult the language of a country I just moved to. Koreans probably think English is dumb too.
The first rule of cultural differences: If you can’t understand something, the least you can do is respect it. Grace doesn’t seem to have any sense of social boundaries, a fact that she goes over a little while after she insults Korean, insults Jason and then goes on to ask Jason all his secrets.
But enough about Grace. On to Jason. Jason is incredibly annoying as well as rude. I hated the way he was portrayed, as well as the fact that he was mean to Grace for absolutely no reason at all. I wished that he was more, that he could’ve been better.
As for the other characters, I wanted them to be less one-dimensional. They’re great, they’re fun to read about, but they don’t feel like real people.
About the romance. Didn’t work at all for me. Jason and Grace spend 70% of the book arguing with each other, making fun of each other and hurting each other to the point where I was sick of both of them. They both need to get off their high horses and listen to each other. Instead, they just turn around and fall in love. Literally, “Oh hi again, I’m actually in love with you.” I couldn’t believe the romance.
Onto music, and we’re back to the beginning. Basically, here’s my ultimatum for you: If you want to read this book because you like Kpop, don’t read it. There is absolutely no music in this story. Zero. And when I say music, I mean Korean music. I don’t even mean just Kpop, I mean all Korean music. There is no actual music in this story, I repeat, except for American music. All the bands mentioned are straight out of the States. Jason does give Grace a list of Korean music to listen to, but she never gets around to it and we never get to actually see the list. Not only that, but Jason’s band Eden is supposed to be this amazing band that’s nationally recognized, yet we spend most of our time in this story doing small performances and talking about writing music instead of actually doing it.
If you want a book about a foreign prep or boarding school, here you go. Enjoy it, but don’t expect it to revolve around Kpop.
And that leads me to the final part of my rant. World-building. There was a lot of judgment going on with Katie M. Stout being white and never having been to Korea but writing a book about Korea, set in Korea. For what it’s worth, she did a pretty fantastic job with the world-building. When I say that, I don’t mean I wasn’t disappointed. Korea and Korean culture to me isn’t all beautiful. Sometimes, it’s really ugly. They’ve got their fair share of horrible stuff going on, just like every other country in the world. Especially with the Kpop scene, I wanted more. I wanted to see the grueling work that trainees have to go through and just how pressure, even more pressure than there is in America, to be a certain way.
It didn’t happen. At all.
But it’s okay.
The reason why is this: This book is set in a boarding school for foreign students. It’s not meant to completely be Korea. I thought it was a genius move, and it made the book feel a lot more real. I got to learn about boarding schools, and how boarding schools in Korea can be. I thought that Stout captured a lot of little random details that made the world more real to me. Sure, some things seemed off. Sure, I wasn’t satisfied with the image of Korea this book captured–because I don’t feel like it’s the Korea that Kpop stars deal with, or the Korea that the typical Korean person living in Korea deals with. I was still entertained by it, and I still enjoyed seeing the world laid out.
I didn’t love this story, but there were many small tidbits of it that I did like, certain scenes that made me laugh because I didn’t expect how real it is. I wanted more, from the writing, the characters, the world-building, the music, and it’s probably not a book I would reread, because I think I went in with the wrong first impression. I do think it has a lot of potential for other people, but I wouldn’t want people going into it expecting the wrong thing. Definitely a story I think other people would like, but not a book I would recommend to people going into it because of the culture aspect of it or the Kpop aspect of it. 1.5 stars.
If you liked my review but wanted to see more examples of what I’m talking about, Kat did an amazing job in her review of finding some of the best examples of what I’m talking about here. I I also did a playlist of K-pop that I really enjoy that I think you might as well. (Please keep in mind that if you don’t like this music, this isn’t a culmination of all Korean music. It’s the pop genre of it.) Feel free to use my playlist however you like, but be respectful of the music and the artists, and email and tweet me or comment below with what Kpop you like or what you thought of this review. :D
pg count for the hardback: 304