Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.
Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.
She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.
Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process. -- Goodreads
Nashville’s very own Grace Wilde takes South Korea by storm, when she decides to run away from her problems and enroll in an international boarding school.  In a country she knows nothing about, she sticks with roommate, Sophie and her twin brother, Jason.  Jason is a KPop star but has only ever dreamed of singing the music he loves.  With the help of Grace, he begins to find the power to do just that.  And what would a semester around the world be without a little romance too?

Hello, I don’t love you, Hello, I Love You and I have loads to say on the matter.  (Warning: the following review contains some spoilers.)

Before I get too into the plot, let’s touch upon this title.  I have heard a range of speculation behind the title.  However, the 1960s band, The Doors, has a song of the same name as the book title.  This fact may go over most teens’ heads.  Unless you are familiar with 60s rock, I don’t think this was the best title choice.

If you are expecting something along the lines of Ink by Amanda Sun, where she constantly uses Japanese and discusses the aspects of living in Japan, you might just want to pick up something else.  Grace doesn’t know Korean.  And as much as she is going to school in Korea, readers would not have been able to tell if it wasn’t stated.  There was nothing that stood out that told me, “Yes, that is in Korea.” Yes, the locations mentioned are in Korea but the way every setting in the book is described is so generic.

Can we talk about the Korean language and how it was used in Hello, I Love You?

Grace does not know Korean, nor does she have any interest in learning the language.  This fact and many more traits made me highly dislike her character.  I’ve read quite a few reviews that point out that she, miraculously, meets people who speak enough English to have full conversations with her; this is not uncommon.  Especially since, she is enrolled in an international school and in South Korea, they begin teaching English in early grade school.

Jason happens to share the same beginners’ Korean class as Grace.  It is mentioned in passing that he is there because he can’t read Korean.  I am unsure at what research was done for this novel but the Korean language is super easy to read.  It may look difficult but you can, seriously, learn how to read Korean in less than 15 minutes

Grace makes a comment:
 "Call me antisocial, but in my defense, it’s hard to make friends with people who refuse to speak your language outside the classroom” (59). 
Did I say I dislike Grace yet?  She never understood that she was in a different country.  A country where English is not their first language.  If she wanted to get along with people, all she had to do was pay close attention to her Korean language course.

She constantly complained about, not only, no one speaking English (which was not true, considering she found a whole circle of friends who were happy to speak with her in her language) but also Korea’s culture as a whole.  She complained about everything.  If Grace had done research before choosing to come to South Korea, she would have easily found out that chopsticks are the major utensils used, Korean is spoken everywhere, and KPop is semi-popular.

Grace’s complaining and her, overall, character was written off as her suffering from culture shock.  Last I knew, culture shock does not turn people into jerks.

There was nothing wrong with Stout’s writing.  I didn’t find anything particularly special, considering I was already seething over Grace’s character.  However, I am so interested to find out the reasoning behind Jason’s last name, Bae ().  Bae is an extremely rare last name (Wikipedia).  I can’t help but wonder if Stout was giving readers a push in Jason’s direction, wanting us—by the end of Hello, I Love You—to be screaming, “Jason is bae!” (That was a bad joke, but who knows, it could be possible.)

I found it odd that Stout did not mention kimchi (pictured above), one of Korea’s staple foods (the next being rice) until more than halfway through the novel. Plus (again I have no knowledge of what Stout’s research consisted of for her to write this), most dorms in South Korea are not (and never will be, at least in the near future) co-ed because of their strict traditional nature.  They have some sort of security which keeps the opposite sex out of the certain dormitories.  However, at Stout’s international school, dorming was (oh, my gosh) very co-ed.

Now Hello, I Love You would have gotten two stars, except that the ending was similar to that of Korean dramas.  And I love my Korean dramas.  Considering I found Grace dislikable and offensive, it astounds me that throwing in some clichés of Korean television really turns my opinion around.  HERE is a list of all those Kdrama clichés and most of them can also be found in Hello, I Love You.

However, there was enough wrist grabbing in the book to fill more than two Kdramas.  (The picture is from City Hunter, which was mentioned in Hello, I Love You.) 

I must admit that Hello, I Love You seemed to be the book that I would expect from an American trying to write a Kdrama.  Similar to the way I felt Americans were portrayed in Kdrama, especially in Heirs, Stout followed with the exact portrayal of Korea in Hello, I Love You.  In Heirs, one of the Americans was depicted as not polite and very simple-minded.  In Hello, I Love You, Korea was constantly put down through the perspective of the protagonist, Grace, and never fully appreciated at all.  In the video below, you can see a scene from Heirs, where the one of the only Americans on the show mistakes red bean powder for some drug.

What gives me the right to say all this?  Well, freedom of speech of course.  But also, I spent four and a half months in Korea.  At an international college.  I know how it is.  I have had culture shock.  I traveled all over Seoul, Incheon, and even Paju.  I loved every minute of it.  I can read, write, and speak Korean.  I watch Korean television.  Hello, I Love You was supposed to be the book for me to reminisce about South Korea but it was a blundering disappointment. (Picture of me in a traditional Hanok village in Seoul, South Korea!)

If you want to read a book about rich people falling in love in a fictional place with a factual name, then this is the book you should definitely be reading.  I may be judging it too harshly—mainly, because I feel so close to Korea’s culture (having lived there for a while)—but I think Hello, I Love You was a tremendous letdown.  If it wasn’t for Stout’s love in Kdrama and her use of Kdrama clichés, I would never have gotten through this.

Rain by Amanda Sun

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Pages: 304
Source: Purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She's started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can't imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she's fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She's flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.
When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo's dark ancestry, as well as Katie's, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend. --Goodreads
In Ink, the first of the Paper Gods series, Katie chose to stay in Japan.  She felt a connection there that she would not feel anywhere else.  However, her decision to stay may have not been the wisest one.  Ink no longer stays on the page, seeming to have a mind of its own when it starts raining, bleeding, and biting ink.  Katie and Tomohiro need to figure out how to stop the ink from destroying them and their relationship.

Rain is the sequel to the fantastic book, Ink.  With sequels, most readers shy away from reading them right away because expectations fly high.  Most sequels are known to be letdowns—not as good as the first.  However, Rain is definitely not one of those sequels.  It does not suffer from sequel syndrome. 

Amanda Sun is able to bring the intricacies of what comes with a traveler in a foreign country.  She tackles issues like understanding another culture’s language, as well as its traditions.  As foreign as Japan’s culture may be to some readers, she makes the characters quite relatable in discussing issues like bullying, jealousy, and more. 

Unfortunately, not all of the characters win your heart.  Even in the first book, I felt it was difficult to warm up to the male lead, Tomohiro.  I constantly questioned the romance between Katie and him because something didn’t add up.  Why does Katie like him so much?  As much as their romance isn’t explained, except for the experiences they have shared, the two characters continue to be madly in love.  To be fair, Ink deserves a reread before any more judgment upon their relationship.  I just never found myself routing for Tomohiro.  Ever since the instance in Ink involving the love hotel occurred, Jun seemed like a much better candidate for Katie’s love interest.  In Rain, the certain love hotel scene [from Ink] is mentioned several times, brought up by Tomohiro, usually making some joke about “that one time” but I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.  I still haven’t gotten quite over it yet.  Despite my character preferences, I enjoyed reading Rain.

Amanda Sun certainly has a gorgeous series here that I wish was given more attention.  Not only is the premise captivating and beautiful, but Sun pairs the story with water paint sketches that take your breath away.  Also, it is set in Japan.  Think a culture seeping with beauty.  Think history that goes deeper than most realize.  Think awesome.

It is the perfect continuation to the series.  Rain is an extremely fast read, so fast that if you blink, you may miss the whole book.  Sadly, the book was over to0 quickly but I look forward to reading the next in the coming weeks. 

Ink (6/25/2013): 5 stars
Rain (6/24/2014): 4 stars
Storm (6/30/2015): TBA

Kickin’ It is a new feature at The Bucket List where I round-up the whole month in one post, bringing you reviews you may have missed, other awesome bookish things, and even what I’m currently obsessed with in other media besides books.  June was a good month.  I started working on an internship, which I love.  The amount of books I read this month surpassed what I read last month, due to finally getting out of school and into summer.  Summer is here to stay, at least for a while now.  Let’s enjoy it and keep reading!

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond (5 stars): Superman may be able to see through your socks but Lois Lane will be able to blow them right off!
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (4 stars): Isla and the Happily Ever After does not live up to pervious Perkins’ novels, where the plot is concerned, but it makes for a cute and enjoyable read.
Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer (4 stars): Off the Page is YA, but I would peg it for younger YA, though it can be enjoyed by someone of any age.
City Love by Susane Colasanti (3 stars): Colasanti will make readers fall in love with the city and have them looking up so they won’t miss a thing.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: LOVED it. You need this book in your hands and should have been reading it five minutes ago.  Review to come in July.

The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn (9/1/2015): A story told by the Fates, I am totally ready for this book!
Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger (4/28/2015): Did you know that Keplinger's The DUFF had a companion novel?
The Accident Season by Moria Fowley-Doyle (8/18/15): It sounds like Fowley-Doyle takes being accident-prone to a completely different level.

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh (7/28/15): I'm currently reading the second book in the Nevermore series and I love it so much.  This is third and final book and as much as I am terrible at finishing series, I just might finish this one.
Go Set the Watchman by Harper Lee (7/14/15): I think this may be the most anticipated read for the whole year.  To Kill A Mockingbird's author is about to bring us another story that may follow the fame of its first.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (7/7/15): I've never read anything by Jennifer Lynn Barnes but I would love to start.  This sounds like an interesting book: a girl goes to a school where she fixes others' students problems. 

Sarah's Bookshelves (Big Reveal: A True Reader's Library with Anne Tollett Home): She is talking dream libraries and it’s absolutely stunning.  I would love a library in my house.
Bewitched Bookworms (Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout - Dreamcast and Giveaway): I have wanted to read Hello, I Love You for a very long time --- ever since I got back from Korea actually.  Reading this interview made more interested than ever; I am a huge fan of Korean television and turns out that author of Hello, I Love You is familiar with Korean dramas as well.
The Book Addicts Guide (The Stages of Starting a New Book by Your Favorite Author, as Told by The Princess Bride): If there is something equally awesome than books, it is The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies.  

Ghost Town by Adam Lambert
Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy
Brother by NeedtoBreathe 

Jurassic World: I remember watching the first movie when I was a child.  Seeing the newest one in theaters truly reminded me back-in-the-day (gosh, I feel old).  Plus, Chris Pratt.  (Need I say more.)

How was your June?