Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie Stout

Hello, I Love You

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!

4 Stars

Top Ten Books if You Like John Green

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic focuses on less-known books that would be good recommendations for readers who like certain popular books or authors. I chose John Green because I felt like this would give me a wide variety of contemporary young adult novels to chose from.

  1. Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts: This book is about a guy and a girl, who fall in love… and one of them has cancer. Zac and Mia
  2. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout: This one is about a girl who goes to Korea for boarding school and falls in love with an aloof KPOP star. Hello, I Love You
  3. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith: Smith’s male protagonists have similar voices to Green’s main characters. 100 Sideways Miles
  4. Mosquitoland by David Arnold: It’s a classic road trip, Abundance of Katherines/ Paper Towns, anyone? Mosquitoland
  5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Her male protagonist is also similar to Green’s, and the entire book is a contemporary love story with a focus on teen angst. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
  6. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: This book is about a relationship between Naomi and Ely, young adults and best friends, and it has themes of teen role confusion and a contemporary mood. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Lockhart’s writing style reminds me of Green’s because there are a lot of beautiful quotes and abstract concepts to think about. We Were Liars
  8. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: Again, the male protagonist reminds me of any Green book, and it focuses on internal conflict, just like Green. It's Kind of a Funny Story
  9. Six Months Later by Natalie Richards: I don’treally have a good explanation for this one, other than its contemporary feel. Six Months Later
  10. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga: The conflicts in this book, and the inevitable star-crossed teen lovers, is perfect for Green aficionados. My Heart and Other Black Holes

Mini Review: And Then There were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

And Then There were None, also known as 10 Little Indians, is a classic mystery novel by Agatha Christie. It’s my first Christie novel, and probably one of my first higher-level mysteries in general, excluding the infinite adventures of the Boxcar Children or Nancy Drew.

Ten strangers are invited by a mysterious host to an island. None of them have anything in common except for a past they don’t want shoveled up again. Each has been marked with murder in some way, and before the weekend is out, they will each succumb to a murderer themselves.

It’s hard not to like this book. It’s a classic murder mystery. It’s one of those books everyone has read and most everyone loves. The concept is simple, the mystery is complex, and the characters are all suspects. This book is the archetype for the mystery genre.

I enjoyed by time reading it. I can’t say that I was completely in love, though. I was a little frustrated by how slowly they figured some things out, and it did begin to get repetitive after a while. None of the characters are remotely likeable, and the back of the book completely gave away the ending. (Spoiler Alert: they all die).

I also think, because of the simple mystery concept, that it wasn’t my usual niche. Which is good and bad. It’s good because it pushes me out of my comfort zone. It’s bad because I didn’t particularly like it that much. The novel felt too plot based to me and seemed unrealistic. I know it’s not supposed to be realistic, but it’s hard for me to grasp unrealistic novels that aren’t fantasy or science fiction.

Otherwise, I enjoyed trying to find out who the culprit was and guessing everyone’s past and their deaths. I do think it’s a staple book, especially for people into mysteries.

3.5 Stars