Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Hello, I Love You"

My rating: ★★★★☆

Author: Katie M. Stout

Series: Stand-alone

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Music, Travel, Fiction, Young Adult

Page Count: 304 (Hardcover)

Release Date: June 9th, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Hardcover: 978-1-250-05259-9

Places to order:
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About Katie:

I'm from Atlanta, Georgia, but I have a passion for travel, which has taken me all over the world. I've lived in Thailand and England, and I've visited five continents. I love Southern sweet tea and English sticky toffee pudding, and I work in social media and marketing for a Christian charity.

I wrote this book called HELLO, I LOVE YOU, which is my YA debut and will be released in 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's. It's about cute boys, sassy girls, and K-pop, and it was described by one reader as "the country, Asian, YA pop version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE," which sounds about right to me. I'm excited to get to share it with readers!

Website // Twitter // Instagram // Tumblr // Pinterest // Goodreads

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.

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.

My review:

Thank you to Michelle Cashman and St. Martin's Griffin for a finalized copy of this novel in advance in exchange for an honest *non-spoiler* review.

Stout delivers a debut that will instantly have you packing your bags for South Korea to look for your own musical heartthrob and to get a taste of a different culture. This novel pulls on the heartstrings of family, unexpected first love, and learning to heal from the past to move to a better future.

When I first heard about this novel, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of South Korea being the main focus/setting in a young adult (YA) novel, because it's something new that most YA novels don't have. I, myself, am Korean but have never been to South Korea, nor know enough of the language to consider myself fluent. It's fun to see new diverse YA out in the world because it's fascinating to read about different cultures and characters with different ethnicities because it makes the story richer and full of life.

The main character, Grace Wilde, starts off in this book practically running away from her hometown in Nashville, Tennessee to an international boarding school in South Korea to escape from her family and some sort of conflict that she had with her brother--and famous country singer--Nathan Cross. She travels to South Korea essentially with no knowledge of the language, culture, people, and what she plans to do after her graduates--well, that's if she is able to pass her tough classes. But with the help of a new, bubbly roommate and her twin brother, Grace's rough transition begins to take a whole different turn.

Sophie Bae is Grace's roommate and constant companion when she first arrives at the Korean School of Foreign Studies. She is the type of friend that I would love to have because she immediately welcomes Grace to this foreign country by staying by her side and taking her under her wing. Sophie is sweet, dependable, and unafraid to be adventurous, especially when it comes to trying new things. As a character, Stout has done a great job of writing Sophie as the roommate/best friend, because the truth is that when you get a roommate, you have no idea what to expect and sometimes, you and your roommate aren't going to agree on certain things; this aspect makes this story much more believable and realistic.

Jason Bae. *sighs* He is Sophie's twin brother who also happens to be part of a KPOP (Korean pop music) group called "Eden" with two other band members Tae Hwa and Yoon Jae. Jason likes to wear skinny jeans, leather jackets, and secretly likes to play old school American rock music. In the beginning, he's an extremely tense character that doesn't reveal much to us, as the readers, and to Grace. As the story progresses, there's this tug-of-war thing that he has with Grace because they both start to fall for each other, but they both have reasons and secrets that keep them from trying to admit it to one another.

In the beginning half of the book, certain conversations or situations between characters seemed a little choppy or awkward, and there were times when Grace acted a little out of character too suddenly after an event has happened. Also, I feel like there were one-too many back-and-forth emotions/actions whenever she interact with Jason (i.e. Grace will want to be with him and then Jason starts to show interest, but then Grace will immediately shut down on him and he's left confused). This happens a couple times in the book and gets me a little confused of her actions and the way that she responds to Jason (this was the only reason why I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars). But later on, it was nice to see Grace grow and heal, especially when she has to deal with her past and confront her problems head-on.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this debut, and the ending was the cutest thing that made my heart swell up like a bright pink hot air balloon. As I got deeper into the story, I love love LOVE how Stout weaved in an appropriate amount of Korean culture and language (food, greetings, etc.) into this book to make it a great learning experience (or I guess, re-learning experience in my case) for me, as the reader. The storyline was intriguing and charming, yet had dark undertones that I didn't really expect at the end (thanks for making me cry, Katie...), which makes this a pretty great contemporary debut novel. I definitely wish that there was a sequel or a companion book from Sophie's POV, but alas, we'll have to wait to see what Stout has in store for us in her future novels!

~Whitney Lauren

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