Check out our review of Seoulmates by Susan Lee, the contemporary young adult novel is Lee’s debut novel and you may wan to pick it up if you are in the mood for a friends to lovers story.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This post contains affiliate links. That means we receive a small commission at no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links.
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In a nutshell
Susan Lee’s young adult contemporary debut novel, Seoulmates, is a swoon-worthy summer romance story that will leave readers wanting more. A love letter to all things K-pop and K-drama related, it’s a tale of two childhood friends finding their way back to each other after miscommunication and thousands of miles tearing them apart.
Hannah just got dumped by her boyfriend, right before summer and their senior year. She makes a plan to get him back, but things get oh so complicated when her childhood best friend turned K-drama star returns from Korea for the summer and wants to reconnect. Will she be able to let him back into her heart, or will she keep him at arm’s length in fear of it being broken again?
You can’t help but connect with the characters in this book. Hannah’s love life is rough, to say the least. Being dumped because of a few interests you don’t share with your significant other is silly. Though I think Nate did her a favor in the end and she ended up dodging a bullet there. Hannah’s sister Helen had it right in saying, “You don’t have to change anything about yourself for him or for anyone.”
On the other side of things, I can empathize with why Hannah is so hesitant to connect with Jacob again after all, they hurt each other and went no contact for years. But their journey back to something resembling friendship and eventually love was encouraging to see. I loved the romance and the tension between them!
I would rate the intimacy in the book at the young adult level, though I can see how the argument would be made to push it into the new adult age range.
Korean culture is a BIG part of this book. After BTS came onto the music scene, there was an explosion of interest in everything having to do with Korean culture and that plays heavily into the storyline. Ms. Lee does include some references to hallmarks of Korean culture, like the ‘aunties’, some of the food and of course, K-drama and K-pop. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of K-dramas or K-pop so there were definitely some references that went over my head. Thankfully, it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story.
Hannah, in particular, struggles with a lack of belonging. Her struggle with identity was compounded by BTS’ emergence, and how it was suddenly cool to be Korean. She doesn’t feel like she’s ‘Korean enough’, and she doesn’t feel quite American either. I think many multicultural readers will find themselves relating to Hannah on multiple levels after reading this book.
The portrayal of what it is like to be ‘famous’ is very realistic in Seoulmates – it’s not all the glitz and glamor it’s made out to be. Actors often surrender control of most of their lives to their management teams, and they don’t always get to do fun things (travel is oftentimes part of their job). I imagine it’s also hard to surrender so much of your privacy in the name of getting to do what you love – some of the less comfortable parts of Jacob’s past get revealed by his cast mate against his will in an interview and I felt so bad for him.
Overall, Seoulmates was a very entertaining and emotional read. A great debut from Susan Lee! I would happily recommend it to readers who love childhood friends to lovers romances, all things K-drama and K-pop, and stories with diverse representation.