XOXO by Axie Oh explores a world I had never dove into before, but as it turns out, it’s one that I don’t think I want to leave.
XOXO follows the story of Jenny. She’s a junior in high school with her eyes set solely on a future as a professional cellist, but other than sticking to her excruciating practice schedule, she’s done very little else outside her small little bubble of Korea Town in Los Angeles. Well, that is, however, until she meets an unknown and mysterious boy in her uncle’s karaoke bar, and decides to loosen up, and live a little… at least for the night. But who would have guessed, probably least of all Jenny, that this boy would turn out to be one of the most popular members of an up-and-coming K-pop group. XOXO is a coming-of-age story about a girl navigating a new country, rich with her family’s history while also simultaneously juggling her dreams of professionally playing the cello whilst wrestling with her feelings for a boy who isn’t even allowed to love her back.
XOXO is an enchanting book sprinkled with a charming cast of characters. Our main lead is Jenny, who is a talented young musician, quick to make friends, and does her best to see the good in everyone, even when she isn’t met with the same kindness. She is fairly quick witted, and for being someone who is quite by the book, she becomes fairly rebellious when it comes to balancing her love life with her future. Jenny, however, isn’t the only one who acts out of character due to love, Jaewoo, our mysterious singing boy from the karaoke bar who actually turns out to be a rising K-pop star, finds that he is also questioning everything he knows after meeting Jenny. Jaewoo is usually quite the rule follower, especially since one slip up could cost not only him but everyone he cares about their livelihood, but upon meeting Jenny he finds that he must decide between his own feelings and his instinct to protect those he cares about most. Jenny and Jaewoo’s relationship is quite innocent and follows the typical path of a young adult novel, and even though this book didn’t surprise me with any twists or throw me with any turns, I still very much enjoyed the comforting familiarity of a quirky young adult novel.
Along with Jenny and Jaewoo, there are also quite a few other secondary characters in the book who add to the plot, who also are working toward achieving their own dreams, and figuring out ways to navigate their everyday teenage lives. We have Jaewoo’s other group mates who all have such a heart-warming bromance with each other that I always found myself smiling whenever they stumbled onto the page together, and we, also, meet a few other young aspiring musicians that Jenny picks up along the way, who have their own relationships and infatuations with the celebrated XOXO group that add an innocent and goofy perspective to this whirlwind romance.
While reading the book, I noticed that the story flowed easily. I found myself flipping through the pages quite quickly almost reading the entire thing in one sitting. Never having been exposed to much of the k-pop culture before, I realized I was learning quite a lot about how that part of the South Korean music industry worked. The book, however, isn’t wrapped too much in the history or culture of South Korea, but it does touch briefly upon a few South Korean traditions besides the K-pop industry which was interesting to learn about. The only part of this book that brought me pause was the way that time flowed throughout the story. I was never precisely sure with how much time had passed in between specific encounters or events, and because of this, I almost felt like the Jenny and Jaewoo relationship moved too quickly, but as with many young romances this is quite typical when it comes to young love.
XOXO is a charming book that combines young love with K-pop culture, and is an enjoyable read for anyone who needs a quick escape from their day-to-day life.
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
To get your copy of XOXO, due out July 13th, you can order through the following:
Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.
Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.
When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.