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Arc was given by Disney Publishing Worldwide & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published after the release date (May 17th, 2022)
Content/Trigger Warnings: MC with low self-esteem, scene and talk of separation anxiety, depictions of anxiety, talk of abandonment, bullying, brief mentions of chronic migraines, harassment, death of a parent (in the past), talk of acrophobia (fear of heights)
“And for a breathless second, all I could do was stare at him as my pulse echoed like thunder through my head.”
Kat Cho has been an author on my radar for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down with her work until now and I think my expectation where blown out of the water. This book was absolutely everything. Truly, with my whole dang chest, I loved this book with every fiber of my soul. I mentioned before that I put this on a few five star predictions lists and honestly, I wish I could give this all the stars. Maybe I’m being mushy and sentimental about the places in my heart this book touched, but I really adored this book, these characters, and I wish it wasn’t over just yet.
We follow the perspectives of Elena Soo, an anxious girl who always feels like she’s being left behind by the ones she loves and now the one place she calls sanctuary is now in danger of shutting down. And Robbie Choi, a K-Pop idol and an old best friend to Elena, who has returned to keep the childhood promise they made to one another from long ago. After all the time that’s passed between the two of them, these once close best friends will go on a journey of reconnecting with one another and even admitting the truth about their honest feelings. Swoon worthy moments, heartbreaking moments, and second chances will ensue for this dynamic duo.
I adored Elena and Robbie as our main characters. I’ve seen so many readers say that we don’t see enough of who these characters are, not enough detail of their history together, but I think they’re perfect. Robbie and Elena came off as very really people. Not only when they’re together, whether it was them reconnecting or struggling with expressing themselves, but also in the moments that had your heart hammering in your chest, rooting for them to be happy. Even on their own, they felt like very strong characters. Elena has anxiety and we see that constantly reflected throughout this book. We see her doubt herself and see her navigate her feelings, and even her coming to terms with some of the things she’s done to protect herself. And Robbie, Robbie is incredibly shy yet we see him be charm and charismatic at times, as well. There were so many layers to these characters and it was lovely getting to see all the different sides to them.
“There’s too much between us to be just starting out. But we can see how we fit together now, after all of our history, the good and the bad. A K-Pop idol and a regular girl.”
The friendship between Elena and Robbie was probably the thing that got me the most. I’m talking moments of clutching my tablet, rooting for them and sobbing as these two were navigating their way back to one another. This friendship so close to home with my own childhood friend, how close we are, and how now we’re navigating our friendship after he and his family moved back to Japan. So reading Elena and Robbie go through so much with their friendship and seeing them work through the good, the bad, and the cute yet awkward moments really tugged at my heart strings, and made me miss my best friend a whole heck-a-ton.
“Robbie didn’t want to give up on this chance to spend time with his old best friend. Not when he’d jumped through so many hoops just to see her again.”
Speaking of characters, there’s so many amazing side characters throughout this book. Like Elena’s brother, Ethan and how despite them having some rough patches, these two always make amends with one another. We also get to see the way Robbie interacts with the other members of WDB (Wondeo Byul or Wonder Star) whbich was so freaking wholesome and precious. It’ll make your heart melt. Plus, we get little WDB member pages scattered throughout the book which was a lovely bonus. I’m just going to say it, there’s going to be a lot of happy k-pop lovers who I think are going to fall in love with this book, for sure. And I have to talk about Soonyeon is and how much I loved her character. Her character was such a lovely surprise and I really enjoyed the way the author had Elena become good friends with someone from Robbie’s whole world. That friendship blooming the way it did was just chef’s kiss!
Also, there’s a lot of Korean culture throughout this entire book. I really appreciated the author adding a lot of Korean words throughout this book. Every time I see authors use their language, their culture, anything of the sort it just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy inside. Which I know, probably sounds a little corny, but it just makes me so happy seeing authors do that. I think that’s an aspect in books that often get overlooked or aren’t always given the spotlight it deserves . So I wanted to take a moment to say how much I really valued and cherished that part of this book. On top of that, we get to see a lot of insight of the music industry in different cultures. There was a time where it was almost taboo to talk about the way the music industry treats their artists or what artists have to go through, and thankfully now, we’re entering into a time where it’s being brought into the light more and talked about more. And that was an element of this book that I’m glad the author didn’t hold back with. I really appreciate how the author took it, not just with Robbie, but also with the side characters in this book. I’m really glad we got to see different sides of that within these pages.
I think if there was anything I had to really find fault in with this book, it would probably be the lack of perspective we get from Robbie. While this book a two-person point of view book, we get very few chapters from Robbie’s perspective and I think this book would have benefitted even more if we had more chapters from Robbie’s pov. There were so many moments in this book that would have been really interesting to see from Robbie’s side and we just didn’t get that. Not necessarily a disappointment, but it definitely felt like a missed opportunity.
Overall, what more could I possibly say about this book that I haven’t already. Honestly, I thought I may have set the bar too high for this book especially since this is my first time reading anything by this author, but I truly loved this. I had messaged my childhood friend about this book, telling him how much I adored it, and he’s really invested in reading this book now, and I just really fell in love with this book. I definitely think this is going to be one of those books where readers will find every flaw in it or they’re absolutely going to adore it. And definitely, many k-pop lovers are going to enjoy this book. I can’t recommend it enough and you know, if you’re on the fence about whether to pick it up or not then let this review give you the nudge you needed to give this book a chance.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.