Axie Oh’s heartwarming novel XOXO brings readers along on an emotional journey of friendship, young love, and complicated family relationships. Set in both South Korea and the United States, a cello prodigy and a K-Pop idol attempt to pursue their musical passions without letting anything get in the way—except maybe each other.
Jenny Go practices tirelessly in pursuit of her dream to attend a prestigious music conservatory. Which is why she is devastated when she’s told she lacks the spark to make her a truly extraordinary musician. When she meets Jaewoo at her uncle’s karaoke bar, she has no idea that she’s in for the adventure of a lifetime. After a whirlwind of an evening, Jaewoo disappears without a word.
Three months later, Jenny follows her mother to South Korea to visit her ailing grandmother long-term. Jenny is shocked to find out that Jaewoo attends the same prestigious arts academy she’s attending for the semester. She’s even more surprised to find out that he’s an international K-Pop star, a member of the boy group XOXO. As a K-Pop idol, Jaewoo is strictly forbidden from dating. And opportunities for Jenny to pursue her dream become more critical than ever. The last thing she needs is a distraction, but maybe there are some things worth taking risks for. . .
XOXO is the kind of fast-paced book perfect for getting you out of a reading slump. The cast is intriguingly put together, making readers curious about Jenny’s mother, or her friends Gi Taek and Angela. There are also interesting plot lines that aren’t unpacked within the scope of this book. (Sori and Nathaniel sequel, anyone?) Though the story features the forbidden romance trope, there were many wholesome and lighthearted scenes that keep readers smiling throughout the story.
While the fast-paced nature of XOXO made it an addicting and binge-worthy read, the pacing could have been distributed more evenly. We needed more time spent in the conflict and resolution, which seemed resolved a bit too easily and quickly to be believable. While the book was wholesome and thoroughly enjoyable, adjusting the pacing would have given more space to explore the underlying issues that get less space in the book, such as the complex familial relationships Jenny has with her mother, grandmother and uncle, and her growth as a musician.
If you enjoy lighthearted contemporary romance, then XOXO should be the next book on your to-read list. Bonus points if you are interested in K-Pop, stories set in other countries, or forbidden romance tropes. Be prepared for an adventurous yet wholesome story with a compelling cast of characters and a fast-paced storyline!
XOXO by Axie Oh was published on July 13, 2021.