Author: Katie M. Stout
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: St Martin's Griffin via NetGalley
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.Review by Nara
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.
So the first thing you need to know before I get into this review is that I'm a Korean. I speak Korean at home, and although I live in Australia, I've visited South Korea several times.
The second thing you need to know is that if you want to know more about Korea, this book should not be your source of information. To be frank, a lot of it is just plain wrong. Let me show you some examples of this complete ignorance of Korean culture.
It surprises me what foods I crave when all I get is rice and vegetables...and more rice.What the heck. Koreans eat more than just rice and vegetables. Like samgyetang and tteokbokki and jajangmyeon and naengmyeon just to name a couple (all foods linked to Google images. You're welcome. Although now I'm really hungry...)
Plus in terms of the language itself, I picked up on quite a few errors. Firstly, some of the romanisations were pretty atrocious. Korean is hard enough to pronounce without an author butchering the romanisations. To give an example, the word for "really?" in Korean is 진짜. It's pronounced like "jinjja" with the double j approaching a "ch" sound (see, super difficult to explain in writing...). In the book it's written as "jinja". Heck no, you'd be laughed at if you said it like that.
The other thing is, one of the supposedly Korean characters incorrectly explained the way the language works.
"The symbols represent the pronunciation of one syllable, as opposed to English, where each character or symbol represents one sound."So this is wrong because each character is one sound- it's just that you can combine them in different ways to get different syllables. Unlike Japanese, where each character is a syllable. Also, main character Grace finds Korean the most difficult thing to read, ever, and that's just stupid, because it's actually a really straightforward alphabet. It's not like Chinese where you have to learn a billion characters.
And then yet another mistake the author makes is this:
"Ahn nyoung ha seh yoh,", I say, not sure if they speak Korean or a local dialect.Siggghhhhh. Firstly, "local dialects" are still Korean. Secondly, local dialects in Korea are basically like an accent- Australian, American, British. They're all the same language with some small differences in certain words. The word for hello (which is what Grace says in the line above) is the same all over Korea.
I might have been slightly more forgiving about this (maybe...) if this wasn't then followed by an atrocious grammatical error where another supposedly Korean character conjugates an adjective incorrectly.
Clearly, the author doesn't understand how the kpop industry works, either. There's no way that a high profile kpop star could go out drinking by himself and not get swarmed by fans. There's a very low chance that the Korean media wouldn't be able to find out where high profile stars go to school. There are usually strict rules on dating set by entertainment companies. Do some fucking research.
Okay, so this review just turned into a rant about how the author got so much wrong about Korea. I should probably write about the plot and things.
The main character, Grace, is one of the worst protagonists I've encountered in YA. She's basically a huge snob- judging everything and everyone in Korea, hating on kpop, being a spoiled brat in general. Even though she's in a boarding school in a new country, she seems to hate everything about the culture- the food, the language (heaven forbid there be different levels of formality in the language! Not like there aren't different levels in English #sarcasm), the music. I mean, okay, I get that it's difficult and you're escaping your problems back in America, but that's no excuse. If you don't like the place that much, why not go to Canada, or Australia, or England? I feel like you'd achieve the same thing without having to go through the trouble of learning a new language. I mean, just look at this:
Call me antisocial, but in my defense, it's hard to make friends with people who refuse to speak your language outside the classroom.You do realise that most people don't "refuse" to speak to you. If you tried, I'm pretty sure they'd speak back. Plus if you're going to stay in Korea long term, why don't you try and actually learn the language?
The plot isn't particularly compelling either. The romance is completely chaotic, with the characters wildly swinging from hating to liking then back to hating. There's just no development, apart from the characters basically being "oh, I actually liked you. I just pretended to hate you".
Pretty much the only reason this book isn't getting a lower rating is because the story wasn't bad enough that I wanted to stop reading. It just wasn't good enough that I liked it.
It was okayRatings