Hart & Seoul by Kristen Burnham – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I’m definitely bias, and I will not apologize, I will only shove this to everyone and shout “REEEADDDD IIIIITTT!!!!” 🥰 And this was deliberately my last read of the year, of the DECADE, and there’s a strong reason for that. More gushing later.
For accurate and hilarious cultural misunderstandings, for anyone who loves Korean entertainment (kpop, k dramas…), for a lighthearted and entertaining read!
Merilee Hart has been doing her best to keep things together since her mother left, her art a welcome escape from her depressing new reality. But things seem to go even more awry the moment her next door neighbor’s enigmatic and mysterious nephew arrives from South Korea. Lee is moody, cocky, and utterly infuriating. But when Merri’s closest friends betray her and her father crushes her dream of going to art school, Merri finds herself drawn to Lee, who seems to live within even greater shadows than her own. And just when she thought things couldn’t get crazier, Merri’s world is upended when she discovers Lee’s bizarre secret…he is none other than a runaway member of the K-pop mega-group Thunder. It’s not long before Thunder’s fans, the Storm Chasers, begin to close in on Lee, ready to do whatever it takes to return their favorite idol to his rightful place in the band. Faced with the prospect of even more heartbreak and caught up in an international whirlwind that has a life of its own, Merri realizes that she must find a way to mend herself, gain control of her life, and pursue her dreams—her heart and soul depend on it.
Oh my GOD, was this just a fangirl’s heaven. It’s a lot more than that, too, but man if you like Korean entertainment and young adult novels, this is the book you never knew you were missing. And if you’re not? Well you’ll be delighted too, because it’s completely hilarious either way.
I’m in a somewhat unique position, I think, of having experience actually living in Korea. That’s relatively common for Americans, but maybe not Americans my age. So I had a lot of moments reading this where Merri is completely baffled or insulted by something Lee does (snicker SHE CALLS HIM LEE) and I can see both side of the situation. I get why Lee is doing it, and I get why Merri is baffled. It’s like I’m in on the secret and get to watch with double enjoyment!
Even without that experience, though, this book is really funny. I feel like anyone could pick it up and get right into it. It was written with the deliberate intention to filter everything through how Merri would understand it, which is how most Americans would understand it as well.
The romance was somewhat whirlwind-y, which is pretty standard for a young adult novel. Everything happens within a few months, so the pace is rather quick. The wrap up is predictable but sweet, so I’m not mad.
My favorite aspect is how Burnham embraces so many tropes of Korean entertainment and fandom and slides them in with a cheeky self-aware grin. It’s positively delightful, and made me want to rewatch Boys Over Flowers – I’m just not sure my heart can take it!
This is a five-star read for me because of the intensely critical personal connections I have in common with it. However, I still think it will be delightful and fun for anyone who picks it up. Also, can we PLEASE get more books in this niche?! I have Korean tv and Korean music, but no Korean books!! (I gotta get back to learning that…)
Thanks to NetGalley and Mascot Books for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!