HarperTeen. Feb. 2024. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063299306.
Gr 8 Up–Sori has dealt with her share of public scandals, thanks to her politician father’s extramarital affairs and backlash years ago when her own relationship with XOXO’s lead vocalist, Nathaniel, was leaked online. Back then, XOXO was a new group under her mother’s company, and Sori was an anonymous trainee. A mutual breakup was best for both of their fledgling careers, even if Sori still misses their easy friendship. Everything feels different now with XOXO topping every chart and Sori realizing she doesn’t want to be an idol. Instead, to help save her mother’s company from financial ruin, Sori agrees to get a new trainee ready to debut as part of Joah Entertainment’s first girl group ASAP. Helping Hyemi become debut ready will also allow Sori to prove that she can make her own decisions about her future. When Nathaniel needs a refuge from prying paparazzi, Sori has a chance to return his kindness over the years, even as it rekindles old feelings and forces Sori to admit how lonely her life has become. This companion novel to XOXO includes cameos from favorite characters, such as Jenny and Jaewoo, while delivering an entirely new second-chance romance. Narrated by Sori, this book offers an insider view of life in Seoul and the world of K-pop, while making the story approachable to readers less familiar with both. Oh combines a slow-burn romance with feminist themes focusing on women and girls supporting one another in the male-dominated K-pop industry to create a vibrant and dynamic story. Characters are Korean or biracial Korean and white.
VERDICT A first purchase title from an author who does not miss.

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