For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she's just performed her hit song "Heartbeat" in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She's about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She's in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She's very cute. He's maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same. ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Goo is an author I’m glad that I gave a second (& third) chance to. She tends to write flawed characters in wacky K-Drama situations. It can be over-the-top fun but her heroines tend to cross a line for me by setting up dangerous situations. In her debut, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, for example, Desi manipulates the hero using information from his painful past and even stages a car crash. The Way You Make Me Feel started with the same thing – a heroine who likes to prank people – but really grew over the course of the story and was called on her BS, so it really worked for me.

Now, in Somewhere Only We Know, it’s the hero that’s sketchy this time and it was a bit of a struggle to root for him but I think she pulled it off.

When we first meet Jack, he’s working his side gig as a paparazzi, trying to get a photo of two superstars having an affair at a hotel. His parents are putting pressure on him to study things he has no interest in and this is his little rebellion and way of still practicing his passion – photography.

Lucky, staying in the same hotel, is the reigning queen of K-Pop and is just drowning under the pressure to look a certain way, wear the right clothes, eat what her handlers tell her to eat. She’s about to perform on The Tonight Show in America the next day and if all goes well she will be the first K-Pop crossover sensation. She's not really sure how she even feels about that. She's lost the joy of performing that drew her to it to begin with.

After taking her anxiety medication, she sleepily (& in her flimsy slippers) sneaks out into the streets of Hong Kong at night looking for a hamburger. Jack sees her, and despite his cynical nature, decides to help Lucky stay out of trouble, thinking she’s drunk and lost.

Jack brings her back to his room overnight and is a perfect gentleman but realizes who he has right under his nose. An expose on Lucky would be the career break he needs so he pretends he doesn’t know who she really is and convinces Lucky (who introduces herself as Fern) to spend the day exploring and eating their way through Hong Kong before the 24 hours are up when she has to leave and he has to turn in his photos exposing her.

The day and night are filled with adventures and vibrancy – Goo’s descriptions making you feel like you are right there in the streets of Honk Kong. Lucky and Jack bond over their Korean-American cultures, family pressures and share things with each other that they’ve barely admitted to themselves.

So, OF COURSE, they fall for each other. But the clock is ticking and Jack’s secret and it’s ability to crush Lucky is ever present.

So…Jack. I had a few problems there. Like I said, Goo has a tendency to write flawed characters that hop into dangerous situations, and Lucky being on (prescription) drugs and wandering aimlessly into the night freaked me out. Yes, a cute boy found her and love ensued but my brain kept thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened to her. But that was not Lucky’s fault. And Jack was good to her the night she spent at her house – as in not making a move on her. But he did continue to covertly take photos of her (G rated) and that’s a f*cked up dynamic that I struggled with for most of the book. Being in Jack’s head and seeing how the photographs turned (quickly) from opportunistic and more about his admiration and growing feelings helped.

What really worked for me is how it was all resolved. Lucky was such an incredible character. Growing stronger by the hour and after learning the truth didn’t let Jack wiggle out of anything. She held his feet to the fire while showing a grace and maturity that helped them both become something better. The end wasn’t a tidy “I forgive you” but was so perfect, realistic and smile inducing. I really liked it!

Maurene Goo writes very messy/flawed (meaning realistic) teens that every reader isn’t going to be on board with but with the exception of her first book, I feel like there are consequences and growth and show teens good examples of screwing up but changing yourself to be and do better.

17 comments:

  1. I loved this book, and thought it was an interesting reinterpretation of Roman Holiday. It did take me a long time to trust Jack, but I got there, eventually. I remember being so captivated by the tour of Tokyo, and the ending put a huge smile on my face.

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    1. I had definite issues with Jack but the book gave me a happy feeling too.

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  2. Hm, I’m not sure how I would feel about Jack. I mean, overall he sounds like a decent guy. But the photos on the sly with the intent to profit from them... ick. But it sounds like there was a decent resolution and I like the fact that Lucky did just go all swoony and forgive him immediately. Good for her!

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    1. It was the resolution that sold me. Yes, she liked him but she did a really mature thing in the end and they both grew. I like dhow it turned out.

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  3. I'm losing my mind because I thought we had discussed this one months ago, but that must have been I Believe in a Thing Called Love.

    I thought it was cute but I'm still not sure Goo's books are for me. I remember having issues with Jack but I can't remember what (besides the deception side).

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    1. I know we talked about the first book but I don't remember discussing this one. I feel like she really pushes that line of flawed and dangerous/criminal lol

      Making mistakes as teens is one thing but putting people in danger is another.

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  4. I should have given this one a go! I did like the one I read, but it was not amazing for me to go again since well I can't pick everything

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  5. I think it would be tough to really like Jack as well. Definitely seems like the author writes books with some crazy situations!!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. She bases them on K-drama's so there's always a bit of over the top-ness.

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  6. I probably never tried because of the kdrama/kpop vibes since I was never into those. I like that the resolve was written but I'm still not completely sure about picking this one up.

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    1. I'm not usually into any way over the top kind of stories but she seems to be balancing that out with each book with heavier (more realistic) stories.

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  7. Taking secret pictures of her is low down sneaky.

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    1. It was and it kept me from really loving it.

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  8. If she bases them on K drama and you then know to expect an over the top plot, I imagine readers would enjoy it more than a reader like me going 'wtf is going on!' *giggles*

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    1. Exactly. If you know what you're getting into and like that kind of thing it's fine.

      I don't have a problem with the K-Drama so much as they engage in some truly dangerous situations. But that's probably more my age showing lol

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