First Lines: Big Brother, I want you to know something: It wasn’t your fault, not any of it. And I’m so sorry. Sorry for ditching the family and for shipping off to the other side of the world.
I lucked out, you guys. I got this in a giveaway almost 2 months before it’s released to the public! Weeeeee! (Official release date is June 9, 2015, FYI.) I was so pumped to read this. And really, any free book I win is a friend of mine.
Grace needs a break from life. Life with her record producer father, her famous country music superstar brother, and her mother who blames Grace for her brother’s breakdown is just too much. So Grace decides to spend her senior year of high school at a boarding school–in South Korea. This is going to be Grace’s fresh start…but then she learns that her new roommate, Sophie, has close ties to the music industry Grace has been trying so hard to escape. Sophie’s twin brother, Jason, is a Korean pop (KPOP) superstar. Grace can’t stand Jason’s ego or his status, but they become reluctant friends for Sophie’s sake. Only, as the months go by, that friendship doesn’t feel so reluctant. It feels like it may be…more. But Grace can’t be with Jason without breaking promises she made to herself. What’s a girl to do?
The jacket indicated that this would be somewhat similar to Anna and the French Kiss, which I’m all about. And there are some similarities. Boarding schools in foreign countries, boys who are adept at acclimating to the country’s customs and a girl who can’t, and that first taste of real independence and love.
I was originally drawn to this because of its setting. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book set in South Korea, nor have I read a book about KPOP. Speaking of music, I’m much more like Grace and her brother: I’m a country girl. To me, KPOP sounds like chipmunks on a sugar rush after being awake for three days. It’s trippy. But I love musicians and singers, so I couldn’t turn this down, even if I don’t like Jason’s music.
…That’s really here nor there, is it? I thought the setting was really impressive. There was a lot of information woven into the story about Korean customs, food, and language. It was cool. I mean, it’s not the kind of book that’s going to teach me everything I need to visit the country, but it was a nice introduction.
The characters were sweet. Grace is sweet and stubborn, and she has secrets she’ll do just about anything to protect. Her life hasn’t been as easy as you would think. Jason and Sophie, as twins, had a lot of things in common, but it was their differences I liked. Sophie is your typical bubbly BFF who spends most of her time jumping around like an excited golden retriever. Jason is far more subdued and you really get to see how fame negatively impacts his life. I thought that was an interesting touch, since so many people are focused on being famous and they never stop to consider the downsides.
The story itself was incredibly enjoyable. It plays out like your typical rom-com, and that’s not a bad thing. I love rom-coms. But I also loved reading about Grace acclimating to South Korea (and she made more than a few mistakes along the way). The story also tends to tiptoe around Grace’s deep dark secret, which was sort of easy to guess ahead of time. But that was fine. I felt like I knew her secret, but I was still waiting for her to tell me. Like I was trying to gain her trust or something.
One thing that stood out to me is that Grace tends to over-exaggerate to an extent that took me out of the story a few times. She seemed to be unironic whenever she said a few characters had “a bazillion problems.” But…from my reading of the story, I saw like less than 5. It seemed like every word out of someone’s mouth was something that Grace planned to use as ammo later. I know people do this in real life. I just didn’t get the impression this was an intentional character flaw of Grace’s. It felt like a writer’s near-cliche that “well, someone has to have issues, so let’s have Grace say this person has problems. The audience will believe it.” It cropped up at the most emotionally tense times and popped me out of the story. That was unfortunate.
Otherwise, I thought this was a really cute story. I’ve even gone back and reread a few of the more emotionally charged scenes I enjoyed.