Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout eARC (2 stars)
Kel Thursday, June 11, 2015 reviewI've seen a lot of, shall we say, less than thrilled reviews for this book, and I can see where those reviews come from. (They've even inspired this Monday's discussion post.)
So let's get this out of the way: Grace, the MC in whose head we are stuck, is a spoiled, rich, somewhat self-centered, flawed, music snob of a girl. She is not the typical study abroad student who can't wait to experience another culture and learn a new language. If you go into the story expecting her to be, or expecting her to fangirl about KPOP, you'll be disappointed. If you're willing to examine her motivations, she's still a seriously flawed, sometimes unlikable individual, but she's a teenager with issues and opinions. It may or may not be worth reading for you; I figured I'd offer the heads up. And now, despite the length of this opener, on to the actual review! :)
This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Published on June 9, 2015
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Final Rating: 2 stars
A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.
Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.
She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.
Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.
I picked up Hello, I Love You mostly for the vicarious traveling. It's a study abroad tale set in South Korea. While I loved the small snippets of sightseeing, I ultimately failed to connect with the characters, which prevented serious investment in the story.
Despite the first-person narrative, the story feels more plot-focused than character-driven. Grace, the protagonist, is supposed to be getting over some heavy stuff, and denial is definitely a widespread coping mechanism, but I know nothing about her except that she likes fashion and music. Which isn't me. Neither clothes nor music are super important to me, so those elements went completely over my head.
On the other hand, despite having zero connection to Grace, I could connect and sympathize with her circumstances. I studied abroad in Spain and--even though I spoke a little Spanish, was at a school with a lot of Americans, and had 2/4 classes in English--it was rough sometimes. I clearly saw Grace go through the first stage of living in another country--essentially, a defensive retreat--but she tried to conquer that and she slowly acclimates.
My biggest disappointment with the story was about 30% in at a big "turning point" for the plot and romance. No spoilers, but I was disappointed with Grace, Grace's roommate, Grace's response (or lack thereof) to her roommate, and her roommate's brother. It felt like a jarring change to the trajectory of the story and didn't reflect well on any of the characters (especially since I think you're supposed to blame the "stupid American," but I was equally unhappy with the other two parties).
The romance wasn't compelling, just annoying and kind of out of nowhere. Like oh, we're this far in and they're not falling in love? Oops, flip the switch, Igor.
The big "reveal" toward the end wasn't surprising...at all. And the way this "tough issue" played into the plot and Grace's character was...well, a little over the top, in more ways than one. Dealing with X issue by going to other side of world where you're so out of your element you have no time to focus on said issue? Eh, not unheard of. Then perceiving and overreacting to your perceptions of other people potentially having similar issues? Also not unheard of, but, like I said, over the top.
Hello, I Love You is a light study abroad romance with some tough issue undertones. If you like characters who are big on music or want a glimpse of another country, Grace and friends will deliver. Just remember, these are teenagers we're dealing with. ;)