Seoulmates by Susan Lee (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: Seoulmates
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Publisher for Review
Publication Date: September 20, 2022

Official Summary

Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. When did Hannah’s life become a K-drama?

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.

But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them. 

Star Divider

Review

Seoulmates is a fun and thoughtful look at friendship, love, identity, and fame. While there are other YA novels about the protagonist suddenly finding herself dating a celebrity, Seoulmates sets itself apart with a childhood friends to lovers plot line and with Hannah’s search to reconcile her Korean part of her identity with her American part, an issue that takes her a bit by surprise as Americans suddenly begin to find all things Korean cool. I don’t think the book was entirely my thing, but a lot of it comes down to my personal preference, and overall I think this will do well with readers looking for a contemporary read with heart and a little bit of K-pop glamor.

I didn’t love the voice from the beginning of the novel (though this will perhaps resonate with actual teens!), and I found it a bit funny that the characters often give lengthy monologues about their innermost thoughts. Anyone who has ever thought, “Why don’t these characters solve their problems by just talking to each other?” might be a bit relieved by this, but I found the execution of the idea slightly unnatural, and I think it messed up the pacing, as well. There are several minor misunderstandings that the characters clear up in a matter of pages with their in-depth communication, so there isn’t a lot of time for readers to get invested in the problem before it suddenly no longer is one, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the “main problem” of the novel is supposed to be.

On the other hand, I loved the setting. Lee really makes San Diego (which I’ve never have the pleasure of visiting) truly come alive; I felt as if I could envision it, and I see why Hannah is so happy she gets to live there.

I also enjoyed the family relationships, including Hannah’s with her sister and her mom, and Jacob’s feelings of responsibility to support his own mom and sister, even though he’s still a kid himself. The book also gives a good look into Jacob’s life as a K-drama star, showcasing the fame and perks that come with handsome looks and strong acting talent, alongside the studios’ merciless dedication to controlling actors’ lives and images. And this is definitely something I’ve seen MG and YA grappling with the past few years, in terms of publishing books that target an audience that clearly loves K-pop, K-dramas, etc., while trying to be sensitive to the fact that the lives of real participants in these industries are not always as glamorous as they seem.

So, because I’m not an avid K-drama fan and because I didn’t love the voice and pacing, I thought the book was fine. In general, however, I think other readers will love this a lot. The setting, the premise, the look at a protagonist trying to find herself even as she tries to find love . . . all will appeal to a wide audience. If you like YA contemporary romance, this might be the book for you.

Briana
3 Stars

3 thoughts on “Seoulmates by Susan Lee (ARC Review)

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I was the right reader for it. I actually didn’t even request it when the publicist asked if I was interested because I didn’t think it’d be my thing, but they sent it anyway! So I guess objectively I’d say it’s pretty good for readers who like this sort of book.

      Liked by 1 person

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