Have you hopped onboard the K-pop and K-drama train? I'll be honest, I haven't. Not for lack of interest - I just have so much other stuff already on my (never-ending) list of media to consume that I haven't gotten around to it yet. But I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Susan Lee's upcoming Seoulmates through NetGalley and I think it's the perfect thing to get my foot in the door.
Hannah Cho had the perfect plan for summer and senior year with the perfect boyfriend by her side. That is, until he breaks up with her, claiming they have nothing in common. Hannah's now ex-boyfriend, along with most of her classmates and friends, have all fallen deep into the K-pop and K-drama fandom, something that Hannah knows nothing about. In fact, she has spent most of her life hiding away her Korean heritage in hopes of fitting in. Her former best friend Jacob Kim (now a K-drama star) needs a break from the craziness in Seoul and travels with his family to spend the summer in San Diego - at Hannah's house. The two former friends (who haven't seen or spoken to each other in years) now must figure out what happened between the two of them years ago and navigate the new feelings that are developing as they start to spend time together again.
I've said it a thousand times - enemies to lovers is one of my favorite tropes. But there is something incredibly heartwarming about a best friends to lovers story that I think speaks to the dreamer inside of me.
Even though I grew up in the Bay Area, surrounded by other Asian people, I felt very connected to Hannah's struggles with her identity throughout this story. She never feels quite American enough, even when she's pushing down her Korean identity. Then, when her world turns upside down and everything Korean is cool, she doesn't feel Korean enough, having spent so much time try to hide that side of herself. It's something I think every Asian American feels at some point in their life and that's what makes Hannah such a relatable character.
I had to remind myself often that Hannah is a teenager (I have a bad habit of thinking every character I read is my age, regardless of what age they actually are in the story). I found myself silently cursing her for her behavior and then remembering that she's a teenager and her behavior and feelings are exactly how a teenager would behave. It was eerily similar to my own teenage behavior and feelings and I felt kind of attacked (but like...in a good way).
Susan uses multiple POV (mostly Hannah and Jacob, but there are a couple short departures into other characters) throughout the story that enhances the urgency of everything that is happening. Being able to see a situation from both POVs deepened the emotion felt, especially when there has been a misunderstanding between the two.
While the stakes are low (no life or death situations here), the emotional stakes are incredibly high. There's a short timeline for Hannah and Jacob to resolve what has been festering for three years. The end of the summer, often a turning point for most teenagers, is an even bigger turning point for these two because it means Jacob's departure back to Seoul. Can they figure out what they mean to each other and how to make things work between them before then? This teenage love story roped me in quickly and had me falling in love all over again with the idea of love, destiny, fate, and soulmates.
Seoulmates is available for preorder now and hits shelves September 20, 2022.