XOXO by Axie Oh

When Jenny’s mom is compelled to go to Korea, their native land, Jenny decides to go along with her. It’ll be the perfect occasion to meet her grandmother for the first time and get in touch with her roots.

What lies ahead is a chapter full of new friendships, opportunities, and a euphoric romance. How will Jenny return home to LA when her time in Korea is up?

Read if you like: cozy YA romances, K-Pop culture, stories about diasporic communities, boarding school settings

I don’t read YA books these days. Simply because I don’t find very many that appeal to me or are refreshing in terms of the stories they tell.

XOXO scored brownie points on all those accounts.

It appealed to me because, well, it’s the story of a Korean-American (I’m still going strong with my Korean March readathon!) and has themes of diaspora, K-culture, familial estrangement, etc.

As a light, heartwarming, and refreshing read, it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It’s realistic in its portrayal of what it means to be a transfer student, a K-Pop star, a 17-year-old dealing with societal pressure.

Copyright © 2023 Meera Nair

There were so many passages that I annotated because Axie Oh speaks to your soul. She sees the world with clarity and is ready to point out the ways in which society’s standards can be our downfall.

This is my first book by Axie Oh, and I definitely plan to pick up the Rebel Seoul duology next.

Her writing has a spark, and it makes you empathise with the characters – be it the grandmother who regrets not having spent enough time with her daughter, the trainee who wishes she didn’t have to break up with her boyfriend over a K-Pop scandal, or the protagonist who has been pressurised by her mom to always make the “right” choice.

I loved seeing Jenny and Sori’s friendship bloom. Initially, I was a bit worried that Sori’s character may turn out to be one of those jealous/ vindictive antagonists. But I’m so glad that Jenny had a group of friends supporting her at SAA.

As someone who has been following and consuming a lot of Korean entertainment for nearly a decade now, the glimpse of the K-Pop industry and the press was something I’m already familiar with.

There’s a romance trope in this novel that I didn’t like at all. It felt pointless and was later brushed off hurriedly.

I used to read a lot of books set in boarding schools. That’s something I used to look forward to. So seeing how Jenny transfers to a new school for a few months and lives in a dorm – it was all very interesting to me.

On the whole, I’m happy that I read this YA contemporary novel. The whole reading experience was effortless, to say the least.

Want to read a feel-good book next? You should definitely pick up XOXO!

Published by Meera Nair

A 27 year-old freelance Content Writer, who spends all her free time ensconced in the pages of a book or writing to her heart's content about topics that excite the creative spirit in her.

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