Grace is the daughter of one of the biggest American producers and sister of a popular country star. So you could say music is everywhere for her. But when her brother has a breakdown and she feels her mother blames her, she pushes the drawer of her high-style Nashville life closed and enrolls in a boarding school… in Korea. Luckily her roommates Sophie grew up in New York but still speaks Korean, and Grace struggles to keep up with Sophie, her twin brother Jason and their friends by adjusting to the Korean culture.
Ironically, Jason and his friends are Korean pop stars, causing Grace to fall into the music business that she tried desperately to leave. At first, Grace and Jason form a friendship to appease Sophie, but she begins to realize that he isn’t as aloof and egotistical as he first appeared. She finds herself torn between falling for him and getting back into the music industry or staying as far away from unstable musicians and the industry that ruined her family.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that when I read the back of this book, my eyebrows shot up and my face twisted into a grimace. But I had to promote it for book club because Katie Stout will be visiting for a talk at our next meeting, so I put on a bright smile and sold the book as best I could.
I mean… Korea? KPOP? Complicated teenage love? It didn’t really seem up my alley.
Then I started reading.
And I actually loved it.
First of all, it was extremely interesting to read about Grace’s assimilation into Korean culture. I learned things about their culture and music which added an informative twist to a light young adult read.
Also, I think Grace showed to be a very layered character, and so did Jason and Sophie. She puts on a brave face for her family when she’s actually terrified of going to a foreign country; she hides her family from her friends; she struggles with the lure and dismay of music; she has moments of insane doubt or confidence. Jason also had intense moods and different faces for different people, which is more realistic. I loved peeling away the layers of the characters as bad or good things cropped up in their lives.
The teen romance? Well, yeah. It’s a teen romance. There’s a love triangle. But there is a twist. While the whole you’re-a-bad-boy-but-I’m-strangely-attracted-to-you complex isn’t really new, the internal conflicts that Grace and Jason face with dating one another make the romance a dynamic subplot to follow. Grace doesn’t want to let anyone in and fears musicians as a whole, and, even though it’s pretty obvious the results from the synopsis, I enjoyed following her ups and downs.
And there were moments where I found myself completely exasperated with the couple, but doesn’t that happen in real life too?
I have only one minor critique about the character developments. They all made retrospective comments on Grace’s hesitancy to accept Korean culture, but to me, it didn’t seem like she had that hard of a time or was that opposed to conforming to it. Maybe that was just my perspective, but I think her reluctance to accept the culture could have been made more clear in the beginning if they referred back to it multiple times. Otherwise, I thought the Korean aspect added a spark to a typical contemporary novel.
Grace’s family and relationship problems follow her throughout the novel, and I adored that not every was wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end because that is how life works. Also, (no spoilers!) I predicted the twist at the end, but that’s okay because it still made me sympathize with Grace more.
So, yes. Read it. Read it as a cultural twist to a contemporary romance. Read it because you need a cute and complicated teen love affair in your life. Read it because it deserves more recognition!