Review: XOXO

Review: XOXO

Rating: 3 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

When Jenny meets mysterious Jaewoo in her Uncle’s karaoke bar, she should have turned him away, but instead, they have a spontaneous night to remember in downtown LA. Numbers are exchanged, and Jaewoo disappears. Months later, Jenny and her mother move to South Korea to care for her ill grandmother, only to discover that Jaewoo wasn’t just a nobody but a member of one of the most prominent rising K-pop boy groups in South Korea.

Jenny is an aspiring cellist, hoping to follow her deceased father’s passion, to become a musician to make her family proud. After some harsh feedback, she feels deflated, which urges her to spend the night travelling LA with Jaewoo despite barely knowing him. When she comes to South Korea and discovers Jaewoo is no ordinary person, her life trajectory is suddenly off-balance. XOXO was fun to read; in a sense, it was like I was watching a K-drama unfold within the pages. If I were younger, I definitely would’ve enjoyed this more.  

The story is cute, and there were some adorable moments between Jenny and Jaewoo. Still, in the end, it lacked depth and any attempts to highlight the “darker side of k-pop” such as bullying and the strenuous training process fell flat and wasn’t as impactful as Oh might have intended. It’s also made me realise that these K-pop centred stories are just formulaic without any outstanding features. XOXO might be the only one that hadn’t made me feel second-hand embarrassment throughout the entire story. It suffers greatly from all tell and no show, clearly marketed towards K-pop/K-drama fans who won’t need any introduction to anything here. Jenny and Jaewoon have some highlights, but the repetitive back and forth made it a chore to read. The side characters are no better; interchangeable in my mind.  Having enjoy Oh’s other works, I was surprised to find myself so disappointed with this.

Overall. XOXO is a sweet but predictable read. That’s all I can really say, there was nothing special about it that jumped out and make it memorable. Though, through no fault of its own, has made me realise that K-pop centred stories are not for me.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Storms have ruined Mina’s homeland for generations. Her people believe that once the Sea God has found his true bride, he will end his people’s suffering. Shim Cheong is fated to be the true bride, but doing so means leaving Mina’s brother forever. So on the night, Cheong must be sacrificed, Mina and her brother break the rules and follow her to her fate. Desperate to save her brother and her friend, she throws herself into the water instead. Stranded in the Spirit Realm, Mina finds the Sea God trapped in an endless sleep and to wake him; she must face every lesser god and beast who wishes to keep him asleep.

I’ll be honest; the story starts in not the strongest footing for my taste. Mina is already boarding the ship destined for Shim Cheong’s demise, and her sacrifice is made so quickly it feels like we almost miss the moment. Her descent into the spirit realm is fast, and in moments, we’ve already made it halfway through the book’s own synopsis. I have been highly anticipating this book, so I was apprehensive it would go downhill from there. 

I can gladly say I was very wrong. Once in the Spirit Realm, Mina really takes off. With time ticking, she must figure out how to wake the Sea God and return her homeland to prosperity only a month before she is stuck forever. And the only person who can give her any information is the mysterious god named Shin and his rogue men, Kirin and Namgi. She is also momentarily accompanied by other spirits who you will love and mourn all the same. 

The crumbs Axie Oh drops in the story slowly come together in the most heartbreaking way. The world-building is in the same vein as Ghibli movies, whimsical and childlike. Mina is strong and compassionate who continues to grow in each chapter. It’s kind of a shame this is standalone because the potential to delve into other folklore through the Spirit Realm is vast. If anything, the only remotely disappointing aspect was that the romance could’ve been developed a lot more in the beginning. Still, towards the end, I was rooting for Mina’s happiness like my life depended on it. 

Spirited Away meets Korean folklore in this standout retelling from Axie Oh. A world of gods and beasts can’t compare to softspoken Mina, who steals the show in her honourable journey to save her homeland.  


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR