18 May 2024

Review: YA novel, XOXO by Axie Oh

 It's been a while since I've picked up a YA novel. I think, the last series of YA books I read was the Twilight series. This one caught my eye because of the synopsis---"an Asian American high school student meets an up and coming K-Pop star".  That's all I needed to pique my interest. I love K-Pop (and before you ask, yes, I'm proudly ARMY and a STAY). 

I also want to add that it's been a very long time since a novel has made me cry. That's an honor that's usually reserved for the visual media. But here I am, having just finished XOXO by Axie Oh and still wiping at my eyes and blowing my nose. 

XOXO is the story of Jenny Oh, that Korean American high school student who meets an enigmatic young Korean boy in her Uncle's Karaoke bar. It's an experience that leaves a lasting impression on her. She doesn't know it then but she'll know soon enough that Bae Jaewoo is in the US with his group to film a music video for their first hit. And yes, he is an up and coming K-Pop star. But since they're never destined to meet again, she thinks, who cares. 

Until her Mom tells her that her grandmother is very ill and needs an operation. And because it's her family, they need to go to be with her. Happily Jenny wants to go too and manages to transfer for period to a local high school. And wouldn't you know it. The first day of class, guess who happens to show up in that class. Two members of the group, XOXO, and one of them is that very same young man, Bae Jaewoo. 

Now what?

Well that what is a beautiful romance between these two characters and the cast of friends that join them. All wrapped within that plot of music. Jenny is a typical teenage girl, but she has a future ahead of her in her classical cello. Jaewoo is a typical teenage boy but with the added responsibilities of the group and family and success in the pop world. Both of them handle things with all the angst of a teenager but with a bit more of the adult sentiments than we associate with the teens.

The plot is wonderful, with an emphasis on wonder. The characters are diverse and packed with the drama one has with the foibles of high school. The drama of it all. The gossip. Even in a Korean high school there's plenty of drama and gossip. Seeing our main characters in their own elements, the family. I was so caught up in all of it that I forgot I was reading a YA novel. And when we got to the conclusion--all I'm gonna tell you is that it's a happy ending. You'll have to read it to find out what kind of a happy ending, because it's not exactly what you think.

Ms. Oh has written a wonderful book. I didn't really expect to like it. I'm a lot too old to be reading YA fiction, but it didn't matter. I was still caught up in it. Her details in the story make it. I could imagine being in the thick of it. Brought back a lot of memories of my own high school years. I hope there's more from Ms. Axie Oh. She's got a bright future ahead of her.

Another five out of five stars.

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