Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Friday, July 03, 2015

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.

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  1. I've been on the fence about reading this one. I love the title (The Doors are the best!) and the cover, plus the synopsis sounds good. But I've read several reviews like yours and I'm thinking this is going to be a pass for me. Great review!!

  2. I was super excited to read this one but after your review I think I'll just stick to K-drama watching, I'd rather re-watch City Hunter than be disappointed. Thanks so much for this amazing review!

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