Axie Oh’s ‘XOXO’ Perfectly Pairs Romance And K-pop – Book Review
Jenny is a cello prodigy and she will do everything in her power to be a success and attend a prestigious music school. Entrenched in her musical studies, Jenny is surprised by a chance encounter with a boy around her age at her uncle’s karaoke joint. This chance meeting ends up being one of the most exciting in Jenny’s young life, but Jaewoo quickly disappears from her life as swiftly as he became part of it.
Not thinking she would ever see Jaewoo again, Jenny is shocked to find him enrolled in the same school as her when she and her mother move to Korea in order to take care of her ailing grandmother. Not only is Jaewoo back from oblivion, but Jenny also learns that he is not just any student, he’s also a member of one of the biggest K-pop groups in existence. And while he’s strictly forbidden from dating, Jaewoo and Jenny might just have to ignore all of the obstacles in their respective ways and take a chance on each other.
Axie Oh’s XOXO is most certainly a breath of fresh air. It is rich in story-telling and is reminiscent of watching a K-Drama (those who have watched, will definitely know what I am talking about), and on top of this, it was so hard to put down. Oh’s writing is pitch-perfect throughout the novel and she does so much to reel the reader in. No amount of detail goes unnoticed and it adds another element to make this book great. In addition to lush storytelling, Oh created a group of characters that are hard not to love and are utterly relatable.
XOXO‘s protagonist, Jenny is full of dreams and determination. She wants to do all she can to make her family happy and oftentimes finds herself wondering if what she’s doing is enough. She is hard on herself and although she has a gift, she doubts herself and her drive. Many of us have (or will) experience all of these feelings at some point in our lifetime and have to find a way to navigate it all through whatever we are going through. This is the same for Jenny and part of what makes her such a great character. It’s clear that Oh created Jenny with an earnestness and honesty that transcends the pages.
Alongside Jenny on this journey is Jaewoo, the handsome K-pop idol who is quickly coming for Jenny’s heart (and who can blame her, especially with that sleeve of tattoos). A little broody, humourous and raw, Jaewoo’s the kind of character that will have many referring to him as their “book boyfriend”. Coupled with Jenny, the two bring out the best in one another and push each other outside of their comfort zones in some of the best ways. It was truly a treat reading the pair interact with one another with all the ups and downs their respective lives threw at them.
While the secret romance between the pair is a main theme of the novel, that isn’t all it has to offer readers. Oh does a compelling job at showing just more than a fantastical romance. XOXO is also a book about family, fulfilling dreams or figuring them out, and doing one’s best to overcome self-doubt and whatever fans its flame within us. Whether you’re a seemingly regular girl or a K-pop idol, there will always be times that self-doubt gets the better of us and we need a little pick-me-up. XOXO certainly serves to be one of these pick-me-ups and I am so grateful to have had the chance to read it!
If you’re looking for a fun romance that combines wonderful writing, charismatic characters and K-pop, then XOXO needs to be added to your to-be-read list as quickly as possible.