A white American teen transfers into a posh Korean boarding school and falls for a Korean pop heartthrob in this debut novel.
Grace Wilde knows what it’s like to be music royalty. Her father’s a famous producer, and her brother’s a country-music star. What she doesn’t know is anything about Korea before she travels there to attend the Korean School of Foreign Studies: she chose her new school arbitrarily in a desperate attempt to escape her family. Fortunately, her friendly Korean roommate, Sophie, takes Grace under her wing, even introducing Grace to her twin brother, Jason, the hunky lead singer of a popular Korean band. Sparks fly between Grace and Jason, though Jason’s fame and drinking habits and Grace’s unresolved family issues complicate their romance. Stout’s depiction of Korea is often shockingly insensitive and riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Grace thinks crowds of Korean people smell like garlic, is nauseated by Korean food, and obsesses over the horrors of squat toilets. A Korean character incorrectly describes Hangul, Korean writing, as a syllabary rather than an alphabet. In the end, the plot is a variation on the classic “White Savior” story (think Dances with Wolves). It’s deeply unfortunate that a novel set in Korea with many characters of color is primarily about its white protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.
Skip this embarrassing example of clueless cultural appropriation. (Romance. 13-18)