XOXO is about a Korean-American teen and cello prodigy, Jenny. One night she meets and likes a stranger, Jaewoo. They basically go on a date, take photos in a photo booth and exchange numbers, only for Jaewoo to stop responding to her texts. When her grandmother becomes sick, Jenny’s mother decides to travel to South Korea to look after her. She eventually agrees that Jenny can transfer schools and move with her. But soon after they arrive, Jenny realizes that Jaewoo is 1/4th of the popular new K-Pop boy band, XOXO — and is forbidden from dating.
This was a swoon-worthy love story! I loved hearing about Jenny’s Seoul experience and seeing her bond with her grandmother. Jenny attends an elite arts high school with many of the kids with K-Pop ambitions, including some who are already stars. She quickly learns about the K-Pop scenes and the fact that K-Pop idols are forbidden from dating and answer to their fans to a large extent.
Besides the culture shock, the book also explores Jenny’s relationship with her mother who has super high expectations and expects her to focus on her music career. Something I really liked about this book is Jenny sounds like a real teen and so do her friends. I loved the realistic dynamics between her, Sori, Nathanael, Angela, and the other kids in the program.
Finally, the high point of this story for me was the SWEET relationship between Jaewoo and Jenny. Jaewoo is such a responsible teen and it’s obvious how much he cares for his teammates and for Jenny. Their scenes together had me grinning big!
XOXO is a swoon-worthy, adorable YA romance set in South Korea. Following two musicians — one a cellist and the other the lead singer of a K-Pop band — this book will appeal to lovers of YA books about music, Asian YA novels, and stories about teens and their grandparents. If you love to travel on the page, don’t miss this YA novel set in Seoul.