XOXO by Axie Oh {Book Review}

It was pure coincidence I picked this up after Tokyo Ever After, but it somehow was the best choice in the end. I was definitely in the mood for another YA contemporary romance and both of these books were such amazing and immersive stories overall!

Synopsis

XOXO follows Jenny as she lives in Koreatown Los Angeles with her mother, dutifully studying cello and getting good grades so that she can start her classical music career successfully. Her focus though begins to wane when she meets Jaewoo, a Korean visiting and begins to like him. His sudden arrival in her life though isn’t as sudden as his exit as he is ushered home and proceeds to ghost her. Luck is on her side though as her grandmother in Korea needs their support and Jenny gets an opportunity to study at an elite Seoul Music Academy. Maybe she can learn music and find out what happened to Jaewoo?

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

After Tokyo Ever After I was unsure if I would continue to have equally great reads, but this was the perfect follow up to that book. For one, the book explores the world of Seoul, Korea as well as Kpop. I’ve been listening to and also curious about the Kpop music world since high school and this book did a great job of showing the many facets of idol life; the good and the bad. The core of the story though was definitely the relationship between Jenny and Jaewoo as well as their own personal development.

In any contemporary romance the characters are an essential strength. Have weakly written characters and your story fumbles at the starting line, but XOXO does a great job of introducing two characters that are both at a crossroad in their lives. Jenny and Jaewoo are very similar in that their lives aren’t really theirs to control when they first meet. Jaewoo’s is controlled by his management, schedule, and fans. Jenny’s is set by her mother who laid out a plan early in her daughter’s life. The romance that starts between the two is beautiful and well written, but I personally loved the evolution the two take on as they begin to assess what they want for themselves and what the future looks like according to them and not everyone else. It’s definitely a coming of age story, but one that gives a lot more with it.

The other aspect that attracted me to this novel was the Kpop part of the story. As much as I enjoy Kpop, the industry is known as being a tough one that lifts young performers to idol status, but can also hurt others in its vicinity. Jaewoo presents a good example of the mixed feelings that can exist with being an idol. On one hand, you have success, supportive fans, but there is also a highly demanding schedule, sometimes badly formed groups, and so many rules/expectations pushed on your life. Axie Oh did a great job of balancing all the good and bad aspects of the industry with her fictional group, XOXO so it didn’t feel like it was ever directly pointing at the experiences of one group, but represented an industry as a whole. There are so many success stories that come out of this setup, but even those at the top also have some truly rough beginnings for their careers. This book presented all this, but in a way that it felt natural to the plot.

Overall, this book was a fun and exciting adventure in Seoul, Korea (one of my dream destinations), and I was all for that! This was the second book that just felt fully immersive to me and made me want to travel to the story’s destination. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Kpop as well!

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