By: Katie M. Stout
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
There were several reasons I was drawn to this novel. #1 - The cover was eye catching and had a fun air about it. #2 - The Goodreads blurb recommended it to fans of Anna and the French Kiss which is one of my all time favorites. #3 - I know very little about South Korea and its culture. I'm always up for a little reading field trip.
Grace Wilde is running from her family and her past. She wants to put everything about Nashville behind her. A move to South Korea to finish her Senior year of high school at an exclusive boarding school seems to be just what the doctor ordered to help her forget. Sadly, Grace soon learns that troubles don't evaporate somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. She will have to find a way to move past her heart ache and stand on her own two feet - with a little help from some new friends.
Grace is a girl after my own heart. She is southern and finds that she misses the culture and food of her home, but she is excited to experience something completely new. Grace learns a lot about South Korea from her roommate, Sophie, and Sophie's twin brother, Jason. Grace's relationships with the twins evolve throughout the course of the novel in realistic ways. I loved the friendships between these three. It made me crave people like Grace, Sophie, and Jason in my group of friends.
I also love stories with a boarding school element. I find that sort of environment allows for intriguing character development. Living at school and having to face classmates for more than just the moments in the classroom can cause all sorts of mishaps and adventures. Part of me wishes that I had been able to have a boarding school experience as a teen. I'm not sure I would have been as brave as Grace and chosen a school so far from home though.
One of the things that makes this novel so appealing is the rawness of Grace and Jason. They both have some serious wounds to mend and as a result trust does not come easy. I was expecting this novel to be a sweet, silly cotton candy contemporary that didn't have a lot of substance, but I couldn't have been more off base. There were some sweet and silly moments, but there is a lot of depth to this one. Addiction is one of the issues that plays a prominent role in the plot. It is just one of the pitfalls in the mine field of fame.
In addition to the characters, I was fascinated by the Korean culture. I knew virtually nothing about the language, food, customs, and music of this country before reading this novel. I had to do a little research on K-Pop to fully immerse myself in Jason's world. It was fun to think of Grace being exposed to these same cultural pieces along with me. I never thought visiting South Korea would make my bucket list, but it certainly has after reading this one.
The entire musical focus was something that made this novel stick out in my mind. I loved learning about music in another country while seeing references to some of my favorites like The Beatles. It was a nice way merge a familiar culture with a foreign one.
Furthermore, I loved the romance in this one. It felt realistic and happened gradually. It was a nice break from the instalove trend. In fact, this one harkens back to Pride and Prejudice. I love relationships that force people to see beyond their original assumptions to form a deep bond. I also loved that friendship was at the core long before romance.
Overall, this one certainly did fulfill my longing for another Anna and the French Kiss reading experience. I'm not sure that Grace and Jason have knocked Anna and St. Clair from their pedestal, but they have achieved a spot on my favorites list. I can only hope that like Stephanie Perkins, Katie M. Stout will give readers companion novels with glimpses of the characters I have grown to love.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated with the stubbornness of Grace and Jason at times.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The evolution of the relationship between Grace and Jason
First Sentence: Big Brother, I want you to know something: It wasn't your fault, not any of it.
Favorite Character: Grace
Least Favorite Character: Mrs. Wilde
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.