Review: Somewhere Only We Know

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

So, mixed feelings here, to say the least. I have been hearing a lot about Maurene Goo’s books in recent oaths; not only has the marketing been great, but it bounces off of the popularity of K-Pop and brings some much-needed diversity to the YA lit world. Who wouldn’t like that?

K-Pop (and K-Dramas) is a lavish, beautiful (on the outside) industry that lends itself perfectly to YA storytelling. With the competitive, captivating world that propels the great machine, there is guaranteed drama and angst. While all of Goo’s book boasts a “k-drama inspired” style of story-telling, I believe this is her first focusing on the pop world. Needless to say, my expectations were high.

Granted, I did go into the book expecting a quick, easy love story. And that is what I got. The “one-day” romances are kind of hard for me to deal with; I mean, c’mon. Who would really be able to fall in love with someone that quickly; it’s hard to believe any connection formed like that is more than a hormone trip. However, I did my best to suspend my disbelief (won’t lie tho, I did cringe at the references to “Oh, I am so in love with him/her, even tho I just meant them.”

The writing was cute, the characters were cute, the love story was cute… It was all… cute. But, not too much depth. I didn’t feel much of a connection to any character, as the development was all pretty superficial, and purely for the romantic aspect. Which, I guess, isn’t bad… But it was a bit lacking for me. However, I did appreciate the representation of mental health in the book.

This book did dissect the k-pop industry in a really good way; there is such a surge in the American interest in industry (won’t lie, I am a big BTS fan hehe been in love with Yoongi since 2015), and I think books like this are very important in helping the young fans truly dissect what the industry does to its idols. Granted, this was a very superficial, loose adaptation of the industry, and the representation of the culture/reception of Lucky’s “rebranding” was fairly unrealistic. However, I think it is stories like these that help younger readers become interested enough to truly look into these cultures and stories. So, like I said, it was super loose and not a truly accurate or deep interpretation of the culture, but it’s a good start.

Now, my real issue was…the plot was EXACTLY “Roman Holiday,” and I couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be a retelling or if it was just a cheap knockoff. As I said, I enjoyed the book, but it was such a close plot to the Audrey Hepburn film, that it seemed less like a cute retelling and more like an easy storyline. It made the whole of the book seem a bit weaker to me, but as I said, I went into it expecting little more than a cute story, and that is what I got.

Overall, this was a cute story, and if you like a YA romcom, you will enjoy; even better, if you enjoy k-pop or k-dramas, you will very much enjoy it. However, it is a bit simple in nature, and had a rather forgettable plotline in general, so don’t go into it with high expectations in terms of critical reading.

3.5 out of 5.


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