Summary (from the publisher):
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.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Nearly any book that I read cover to cover while floating around my pool IN one afternoon is a fantastic book for me – and if this scenario seems oddly specific, the book I am talking about is Axie Oh’s YA contemporary, XOXO! This YA contemporary following Jenny’s semester abroad at a performing arts school in Seoul, South Korea, and yes, falling in love a K pop star along the way, completely grabbed my attention as I floated around the pool on a hot afternoon. I would not go inside until I had this book completed – if you’re looking for a cute read to read in less than four hours, this is the book for you.
The book is narrated by Jenny, a rising cellist who spends an unforgettable night with a cute guy, Jaewoo, in her hometown of LA….only to never hear from him again. Three months later, Jenny and her mom move temporarily to South Korea to help take care of her grandmother, and Jenny enrolls in a prestigious performing arts high school there.. only to discover on the first day that not only is Jaewoo one of her classmates, but he’s also one of the members of a rising K-pop group. While improving her cello playing skills, forming friendships, and falling in love with a new city, Jenny and Jaewoo begin to develop a relationship while trying to avoid the spotlight and the strict expectations he must follow as part of the K-pop group.
Something (aka everything) about XOXO grabbed me from the get-go. The book was so well-balanced between Jenny’s family life, her friendships, discovering Seoul, her dream to study music and keep performing in college, and of course, her romance with Jaewoo. I admit that I was a bit hesitant going into this one because of the slight K-pop premise since I’m not a K-pop fan, but you totally don’t need to know too much about K-pop to enjoy this one (even though you’ll probably catch some inspired references that I likely missed).
XOXO doesn’t immediately jump into South Korea, but I though the transition from Jenny & Jaewoo’s first night together & Jenny’s life in LA to Seoul was really well done and added to Jenny’s character growth. I loved all the friendships she made there, along with the growth in her relationships with her mother & grandmother. The book reminded me of Abigail Hing Wen’s Loveboat, Taipei and even Jenny Lee’s Anna K:Away, likely because of the setting and performing arts school.
Overall, XOXO is a YA contemporary release not to miss this summer! If you love books set in other countries and a cute romance that well balances so many other elements, check this one out!
XOXO comes out on July 13th, 2021.
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this ARC affect my thoughts & opinions.
Is XOXO on your TBR? What YA books have you been loving lately? Have you read any books by Axie Oh? Share in the comments!