Cover Image: Hart & Seoul

Hart & Seoul

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Member Reviews

I thought it was very interesting to read a novel with such diversity from a non-Korean author. I am not a huge fan of K-pop, however, after reading this novel, I think I want to start listening to them. Beginning of the novel when Merri began to have her life come apart, that was very heartbreaking and depressing. When Lee came along, it was fun to read their conversations and Merri's inner dialogue. It was also quite fun to read her reaction when she learned he was a runaway member of a K-pop group. 

I highly recommend this book to K-pop lovers and romance readers who love brilliant writing.
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Thank you to Netgalley for this copy of Hart & Seoul in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who loves K-Pop, I was definitely drawn to the blurb and found myself feeling very intrigued. A girl who falls in love with the K-pop star but doesn't know it? Sign me up.

But I have mixed feelings on this book. On one hand, I love how she included the topic of mental health in this book, as it's something I think needs to be talked about more in fiction. But on the other hand, there were a few mistakes. Some Korean words weren't written correctly, and I feel like the main character could have done research on Korean culture in the book, instead of relying on the MC to explain everything to her.

With that being said, the book read like a K-drama. It was a fast read and predictable at times, but had some heartwarming and serious moments throughout the story.
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Hart & Seoul follows the story of Meri and Lee. They are more foes than friends at the beginning of the story. However, Lee is there to help Meri as her world starts to crumble. Soon Meri discovers that Lee is a k-pop star in hiding. I grew attached to both of these characters. They were real and lovable. So much so that couldn't stop reading, and I wanted to keep reading their story when the book was over. I was thrilled to see an announcement of the sequel on the authors instagram page!
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I'd like to thank NetGalley for this ARC copy of Hart & Seoul in exchange for an honest opinion/review of the book.

Alright, so my K-pop loving self was first drawn into the blurb of this novel. Hart & Seoul is the story of Merri Hart, a young teenage girl that just got back from Australia, to discover a rather snobbish guy named Lee Hyung-Kim moving in as her new next-door neighbor. As time passed by, Merri discovers that there is more to her neighbor than just the sparkly guy she sees right next door. 

Initially, the book's concept had a mix of that usual trope of enemies to lovers and the ordinary girl meets popular boy themes. Being a huge kpop fan, I was at first excited to read this book, because I do rarely read books that mingle with other things that I enjoy. That being said, while this book tackled on a lot of cheerful, and funny moments, I sorta felt that it could've expounded a bit more on the more serious topics in the story. The author wanted to put an emphasis on some themes like the dark side of the kpop industry, as well as negative fandom behavior. Being part of a rather huge fandom in the kpop world, I felt that these certain issues in the industry haven't been fully explained and expressed in the book. The kpop industry had only been explained on a surface level and the same with the Korean culture side.

There was a lot more to Korean culture and Korean pop culture than how it was portrayed in the book. As far as character development, Merri felt a bit too plain for me. Being someone as well in the creative field, and have been doing art, there are those small-time artist struggles that could've given her more depth. The thing that did make me sigh a lot is how Merri tried to not follow her mother's footsteps but ended up doing exactly as her mother was. There are also so many artist platforms that could've broaden up in the story. I know DeviantArt is a good platform for artists, but I've seen more artists leaning toward using websites like Instagram, Patreon, and Behance just to expand their online portfolio. Teenage artists are a bit more tech-savvy in that aspect. 

Then we got to Lee Hyung-Kim, I won't lie, but the Korean romanization of some words in the book made me somewhat cringe because it came out a bit off to me. There are a lot of Korean swear words haha, and I have heard a lot of these wordplay used by native Koreans and in dramas. While it is stereotypical to hear the word "Aishi" and "Aigoo", if one is to give life on a native Korean person, you should expect a wider use of words like "pabo" for Idiot and other slangs. There were plenty of instances as well that Lee's character would provide insightful moments like Korean culture, even if it were portrayed through his aunt. It just somewhat felt like a one-sided showcase of culture.

In the end, I did rate this three stars, because there is potential in the plot. It could still be made better, and I love the dynamics of Merri and Lee. I would honestly like to see where this story goes, and how both of them grow.
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This was super cute! I really enjoyed this. The plot line was fun and the characters were  great! I highly recommend this!
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Fun and a great read to start summer break. This is a light read that week have you laughing, crying and wanting more.
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The book was okay. If you are new to k-pop and want to know more about it, this book is for you.  The characters weren't very memorable. I didn't like how Merri acted as Lee was her Wikipedia. She could just google most of the things which she asked, this aspect was a little annoying. Also, it doesn't look that the author herself knows  enough about Korea and k-pop to write about it. As I said, IF you are new, this book is okay. If you can ignore the little mistakes, then its okay too.
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As the kpop phase of my life has passed, I still reflect on it fondly and am delighted whenever it pops up unexpectedly on my news feeds. I was fully positioned at the core of the kpop that deserves to be called a culture in itself.The witty title caught my attention alongside, the blurb which captures the ultimate dream of a kpop fan- essentially falling in love with a kpop idol in a novel format- consider me chanting with my kpop light stick.

As I was reading, it was definitely all cheese. It's competing as one of the cheesiest novels I have read but ultimately, it made me feel good. As I had travelled to Korea, I was able to empathise with Meri when she tried her first taste of kimchi because, I had the exact reaction-maybe she should have tried kimchi fried rice haha.

Although the novel was predictable, it was an easy read that really revved up my inner kpop fangirl. The characters were likeable with the stereotypical filler roles that you find in any teen romance however, I feel like there could be more interactions with secondary characters to create greater depth and layers.

It's unusual for me to ever read the author's note at the end of a book however, in this instance I just half-heartily flicked to that page and consider me shocked when my eyes caught on

"Kpop-star Kim Jong-Hyun of the group SHINee was found in his apartment after a successful suicicide attempt, which was a shocking and bitterly painful reminder that all is not as it seems, even with those who seem to have it all"

This added so much more depth and meaning to the core of the book as I remember this time that had really shaken up the kpop world.
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This was a nice romance book! I really liked Merri and I enjoyed the story. The struggles that Lee faced were handled well and I found them to be realistically done. The only thing that I had a tiny bit of a problem with was the way they made up but other than that the story was very sweet and endearing. I really had fun reading this and can’t wait to read the second book!
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I found this book very nice and adorable - and yes a bit over the top sometimes in the book.
I really liked it, i know that there are issues that they don't talk that much about in korean culture but i really disliked the kpop-star for a while, but he kind of grew on me. But i also got used to it, because honestly? it felt like a k-drama just in a book way, and k-dramas are supposed to be wierd, adorable, over-the top sometimes. But nontheless. I liked it :)
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I would like to have a nicer opinion but this book is awful. And I'm mad even at myself for losing my time trying to read a book about k-pop without racist remarks and fetichization of asian man. But here we are. I think it is impossible and I should give up.

 The plot was so simple and predictable and the characters are not better, he's arrogant and treated like a dumb and ignorant boy, and she's just flat.

 I'm dissapointed.
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Just a disclaimer that I am white and live in the US. I know only a tiny bit about Koran culture but I will say parts of this book made me uncomfortable with how it was handled. The misspelling of the words and some of the jokes the characters make especially. While there were things I liked about the story, I ultimately wonder if it’s harmful and just fetishizing. I saw this book on Net Galley not long after reading and watching a popular K-drama series and just wanted to read something similar. I liked the enemies to lovers and slow burn aspects but it honestly read like well put together fanfiction. If it wasn’t for the parts that seemed mishandled I think I would have enjoyed it more.
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This felt like such a K-drama. That aspect I liked.
I loved the relationship between Lee and Merilee, they had so many cute moments I kept squealing the entire time. 
But, Merilee's life is so sad, literally everyone she knows betrays her in some way. My poor heart was put through so many emotions.

However, there were some parts that I did not really like. For example, the romanisation of the Korean words was incorrect. I feel like perhaps the author should have gotten some more advice from a native Korean to make it more authentic/realistic.
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Upfront I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  I couldn't stop turning the pages.  I read through this in two sittings and I couldn't stop.
But I have a couple of things I didn't love with this book.
First of all the book, especially in terms of plot and intrigue, was predictable.  The enemies to lovers trope was well done, but you knew exactly where this was going.  Boy meets girl.  Girl doesn't like boy, boy doesn't like girl.  Eventually, with a little bit of pushing, they become friends and then a little bit more.  The pair are torn apart in traumatic circumstances and then he wins her back in a grand, dramatic gesture.
Isn't that how all romance books go?  There was nothing new.  Nothing unusual in the telling of the story.
Until you got to the ending.  The ending was a cliff hanger, and I LOVE myself a good cliff hanger.  I don't like unresolved stories.  I want to know what happens right now!  Please, Kristen, when will the next book be out?
(And can I just say why don't big romantic gestures happen like that in real life?  Why couldn't that be me?)
But coming away from that, my other problem with the book was the use of Korean language in the book.  I have no problem with Korean wordage being used, even in speech but I would have preferred to have the word spelt in their correct romanisation rather than how Meri was hearing them, unless it was when her misunderstanding the pronunciation.  I've read Kristen's blog and she wrote something about how she went back and to between using the romanisation and phonetic pronunciation.  Here is the original post.  I think in the end, for me at least, she made the wrong decision on that one.
The characters were great.  Deep, well-rounded and human, and not just the two main characters, Lee Hyung Kim and Meri.  You meet a lot of other characters along the way and Burnham has obviously given a lot of thought to those characters and then never come across as 2-D.  Even down to the simple thing as when Lee never uses contractions and Ms. Parks stilted English.
In an ideal world I would have given this book three and a half stars but I would rather round down than up, especially with this, despite how close it was to four stars.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone and I hope that you enjoy it as much, if not more than I did.
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As a millennial, I grew up with a love for Kpop. This book is every Kpop fans dream; girl ends up meeting a Kpop star without knowing who he is and they develop a relationship. While some might worry this would be streamed as fan fiction, the fictional plot does mention some popular Kpop bands, but the Kpop star in this book is completely fictional. I really liked how Kristen brings up the “dark side” of Kpop-stardom, which many might not know about, and there is a blurb at the end for those who might be struggling with their mental health. She mentions the suicide of idol  김종현, Kim Jonghyun, who passed in 2017 due to the many pressures and mental health struggles of being in the industry. The fictional idol struggles with issues as well in the book, and I think it is a great read for teen Kpop fans, as well as romance Romeo-Juliet like plots.
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Hart & Seoul is a YA romance about a girl named Merri, who finds herself caught up in a love story that she never could have foreseen. When she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating with her best friend, she finds herself falling quickly into her mysterious new neighbour's arms. He's obnoxious and secretive at first but, when she is forced to spend time with him, she discovers that maybe he's exactly what she needs to get over her heartbreak. Oh, and he's also a k-pop idol who's in hiding from millions of screaming fans.

When I saw that this book combined my love of cheesy YA romance and k-pop, I was really excited to give it a try. It seemed like a nice, lighthearted read and I thought it would be a nice change from the very heavy and intense novels I've been reading lately. I love learning about Korean culture and hoped that this book would provide a little insight into that, as well as a cute romance.

The cute romance was definitely there. The novel read a little like fan-fiction, but it did have a cute and cheesy plot, with the handsome boy-next-door and the massive romantic gestures that every good teen love story needs. I also thought that Merri's internal monologue, though a little strange at times, was very believable for a young girl going through what she was.

Unfortunately, I just didn't click with the rest of this book. The plots with both of her best friends were very cliche, her family drama, which should have been a much larger part of the plot, seemed to have just been thrown in at random points, and all other parts of the book, including the online stalking and mental health problems, which are very real and serious issues, fell away when there was a chance for a sweet, romantic scene. Everything also seemed a little too co-incidental and, although I knew that this book wouldn't be wholly realistic, based on the summary, I expected it to be a little more believable.

My main issue was the Korean representation. I am in no position to say whether this was accurate or not, but from the misspelled Korean words to the random Korean stereotypes and 'facts' that were thrown in when they were completely not necessary, I think that the Korean aspect of this story could have been better researched. A lot of these aspects of the book seemed like the author was trying to prove that she knew a lot about Korea, when she'd just done some online research and found out things that most international k-pop fans would already know. It would've been great if this book had presented Lee as a more authentic person, rather than someone who was outraged by very minor things. 

I think it is important that the author delved into the darker side of k-pop, referring to Shinee's Jong-Hyun in the author's note and clearly showing that she intended to highlight the problems in the industry, and it was indeed obvious that Lee was troubled throughout the story, but I just didn't find the plots believable enough to be an authentic tribute. I hope that, if international fans of the Korean music industry do read this book, they'll realise that there are issues that need resolving, but I don't think this book provides enough depth for it to be a viable way of showing this.

Overall, I'm really upset that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped to. If you're looking for an easy, cheesy romance and don't want to look too much deeper into the story, this book is fine, but I just found it too implausible to really enjoy it.
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Hart and Seoul has everything I love in the description. K-pop, enough drama to be on par with a K-Drama and enough wit to keep me laughing throughout it was an absolutely delightful read.   Thank you to the publisher for allowing me a copy through NetGalley to review.
Summary:
The story follows Merri, who is trying to cope with the loss of her mother in her life, and a sudden shock in her personal life with her boyfriend and best friend that leavers her feeling quite isolated from the world. Incomes Lee, the nephew of her neighbour who has just arrived from Korea and is always seeming to be saying the wrong things. As the story progresses and Lee and Merri become closer it all looks to be going wonderfully. Until it turns out Lee is really a K-Pop superstar hiding in the states after an incident in Korea which gave him all the wrong publicity.  Will their tentative friendship and potential relationship last through this storm?
My Positive Feedback:
As someone that absolutely loves the K-pop and K-drama world I loved the plot. It was just so adorable and well thought out I read the entire book in one sitting as every time I finished a chapter, I was desperate to know what happened next. The ending, goodness I wanted to scream and beg for a sequel immediately as I want to am so invested in these characters at this point. 
One thing I would like to give an honourable mention to is the way the K-pop industry and fanbases has been portrayed. In the story the author makes some very hitting remarks about the K-POP community and the pressure its stars face. As someone in the fandom for SHINee I genuinely loved this representation of the industry and also thank you for your author note, the mention of Kim Jong-hyun after finishing this novel had me so touched.  
Character wise I genuinely  enjoyed the development of our two protagonists, I will admit initially I really struggled with Merri and her obliviousness to how her words could affect others and always on the defensive, however as she developed this slowly slipped away and I begun to enjoy her character more. Also massive compliments to the author, I was practically swooning over Lee, which is something I very rarely do for the love interests in novels so Kudos! 
My Negative Feedback:
The only minor negative comment I have is that some of the side characters felt slightly less developed than the protagonists. As they are the main driving force behind the story it isn’t noticeable but something to be aware of. 
That’s it, the only minor negative I had. Honestly I loved everything and this is the only minor feedback I could think of!
Overall:
The novel is a genuine delight. Filled with wit, romance, drama and extremely rekevant in the modern world especially with he continuous rise of K-pop, I felt I was in a whirlwind I would highly recommend you give this novel a shot! I noticed there is a sequel on Goodreads and you can bet I will be trying to get to the front of the queue to fall back into this story.
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What a fun book! I loved the relationship that developed between Mr. Sparkly (haha) and Meri was totally realistic and also dreamy. Lee's background and history with his fans plausible and probably more true than we know. Meri's friendships and relationship with social media also read as very true to life. 

I want more!
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Considering I’m not used to reading YA anymore, I thought the beginning of “Hart & Seoul” was a little too predictable and boring for my liking. However, after Merri finds out the secrets her best friend and boyfriend were keeping from her, things started to look up. 

This book follows the story of Merri, a girl in her senior year of high school who loves art, and Lee Hyung-kim, a K-pop star who decided to spend some time with his aunt in the US. Their first meeting was funny and endearing and I liked that they didn’t like each other instantly. It was only after a few meetings that they started to develop a friendship and then a romantic relationship. Their dynamic was great and made me smile a lot.  

Even though I predicted most of the plots, the author still managed to surprise me. I was expecting two annoying teenagers, but instead I got two amazing characters that suffered a lot, but handled their relationship and personal problems in a way that was really mature and beautiful. 

I thought the Korean representation was good, but since I'm not Asian, I couldn't say that for sure. Unfortunately, after reading a few reviews that talked about how bad the representation was and how the author didn't research their culture really well, I decided to drop my rating from 4 stars to 2 stars. I really hope the author learns from her mistakes because I don't think it's okay to use a different culture for your own gain without respecting it. 

*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Hart and Seoul by Kristen Burnham, 256 pages. Mascot Books, 2019. $18.
Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE
AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH
Merri was excited to see her best friend and her boyfriend after a two-month trip to Australia during the summer before senior year, but now they’re ignoring her messages. Instead, Merri is stuck with the jerk nephew visiting his aunt next door who seems just as annoyed at the play dates arranged for them, until his secrets start to be revealed. Maybe Merri should have stayed in Australia -- everything was simpler there.
Burnham was not subtle about her foreshadowing, and I was constantly conflicted as I flipped between excitement for what was going on and dread for the obvious blow up waiting to happen. Merri’s character is engagingly expressive and felt like someone I’d want to be friends with, making the anticipation of what would go wrong that much worse. I was worried about an overly cheesy ending, but Burnham handled it better than I could have imagined; I am immensely satisfied. It was also fun to read the K-pop and K-drama references throughout the book, so those in the know can look forward to those. The violence rating is for discussion of suicide.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
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