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.


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Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Moving from his rural hometown to busy Seattle, Jay Collier hopes to finally find a place where he belongs after spending most of his teens as the only openly gay person in his town. While his hometown peers have already moved past first, second and third bases, Jay creates his romantic agenda in hopes that Seattle can cross them all off. As he slowly begins to check his list, life has a habit of throwing us all off track as Jay begins to realise life can’t be boxed into a neat list and if he wants to stay true to himself, he may need to go off plan. 

Jay’s Gay Agenda is surprisingly sweet and very messy. Jay is a bright young boy who wishes to have the same romantic endeavours as his peers. But being the only boy who is gay and out to his community, his chances for romance is slim to none. But when his mum is promoted at her job, and with that comes a new home in Seattle, Jay finally feels like he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He creates his Gay Agenda to help him figure out his wants and needs and everything is going well when he meets Albert on his first day of school. I actually really enjoyed his journey of being this small-town boy finally getting the chance to explore his sexuality.  I actually adore many of the characters in the story. I could definitely see this as a live-action in a similar vein to Simon Vs. or Heartstopper

If you’ve already seen reviews for this, then you’ll already know that the reception for this is rather mixed since Jay cheats and lies to his friends and love interest. I personally did not enjoy the cheating plotline. It really depends on how you read the story as I understand people might not see it as cheating. For me, it definitely crossed into cheating once Jay and Albert had a discussion about their first time and he promises to wait for Albert, despite having slept with someone the chapter before. 

My main issue with this book was the writing style itself. It felt off, and not a realistic voice of a teenager in current times. Jay’s voice felt rather exaggerated and more so like someone was trying to write was a teenager sounds like rather than sounding natural. It felt like a  teen movie script which was rather disappointing. I wouldn’t cross this off as a do not recommend. While it wasn’t for me, it depends on who you’re recommending this for because Jay’s voice and humour won’t be for everyone. 

Overall, Jay’s Gay Agenda is about finding yourself in a way that works best for you. Navigating life isn’t perfect and Jay, despite his refreshing optimistic attitude, doesn’t always get it first try, which is why, despite my prior thoughts, thought it was still a great exploration of sexuality from the perspective of a teen youth.


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Review: Blood Scion

Review: Blood Scion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

As a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods, being a Scion is a death sentence under Lucis’ violent rule. When she is conscripted into the Lucis army, Sloane uses it to get the revenge she has always strived for. But as she rises through the ranks, learning to fight the enemy, she risks losing herself as her ability to suppress her powers weakens and threatens to harm all those around her. 

Blood Scion is remarkable. As someone who has been losing interest in YA fantasy, I found myself thoroughly surprised by Bloodscion, which is a shocking and action-packed debut that has the potential to be a hit for older timers and new fans alike. 

Fifteen-year-old Sloane has constantly searched for her mother’s body, hoping to clear the rumours of her disappearance and death. During her nightly trawls, she is ambushed by a Lucis soldier and uses her powers to kill her intruder. Scions are descendants of the Yoruba people who were gifted with magical abilities from the Orisha. A dwindling population that the Lucis are currently hunting. Even being wrongfully accused of being a Scion is a death warrant. When Sloane is conscripted to join the Lucis army, despite every bone in her body telling her to run, it is the only chance she has to find the truth of her mother’s death. Thus begins her journey toward revenge and seeking justice for others of her kind. 

Blood Scion looks straightforward from the outside—a typical young girl infiltrating an enemy base. You would probably think you’ve read this before.  But what makes this stand out is the story. It is complex and well built, solidified with characters that stand on their own and together. Sloane goes to Avalon and joins a squad of other children who have their secrets about joining the army. The story moves fast and keeps you informed without getting confused. The world Solane presides in is dangerous and brutal. The Lucis are colonisers, and there is no beating around the bush about the genocide they have committed and continue to engage in the story as Sloane and her peers are trained to become the next crop of soldiers. 

Falaye is a remarkable writer, and I’ll definitely be watching out for future releases from her that are not in the Blood Scion series. She writes with great detail that informs the reader and brings to life the world around Solane despite the story taking place mainly within Avalon, their training ground. Solane is a complex protagonist whose character is pulled apart and rebuilt together by the very people who would want her dead if they knew the truth. A child soldier who fights so hard for the truth, it is heartbreaking to see her go through so much pain. 

As mentioned, the Lucis are colonisers. And Blood Scion does not shy away from the atrocities they commit to Scion and their own soldiers alike. Falaye balances the storytelling well while also discussing war and oppression. Sloane must navigate a world where the Lucis and their propaganda are rampant. The intensity of violence was surprising to see in a YA as the experience of children soldiers will never be easy to witness. Falaye does not water down anything and brings to light every harsh detail Solane faces. While a fantasy world, it is still the reality for many children worldwide. 

Overall, a gritty and dark debut about a young girl’s journey for survival and revenge. Based on Yoruba mythology, Blood Scion is intense, further elevated by Falaye’s imagination. With excellent characters and an intriguing fantasy world, Blood Scion is the start of a story that promises to be exceptional.


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