Review: Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.


What is Heart and Seoul about?

This novel is about Hara, a Korean-American adoptee who in the wake of her adoptive father’s death decides to learn more about her birth family. She receives a surprising email from a man who seems to be her birth father and impulsively decides to visit South Korea to meet him. While there, she begins a hunt for her birth mother and starts to fall in love with Seoul–and Yujun from Seoul. At its core, this novel is a story about finding one’s self through family, culture, and experience. Hara is looking for many pieces of herself, and she actually manages to find some of them.

Genre: NA Contemporary (Romance?)

So I’m not sure whether this is a romance book or not. There are absolutely moments that could only happen in a romance novel, but the overall plot and concluding moments are so antithetical to a romance novel. Genuinely, if you’ve read this book, please let me know what genre you think it fits best.

Tropes: DNA tests tell all

Appropriate to the modern world, Hara discovers her family by using a DNA site that links up to genealogy. Of course, there’s a data breach involved as well, but that test does tell Hara who her father is in the end.

Plot: Let’s invent a lot of crises and never solve them

I feel like every character that set out to make something easier ended up making like ten things harder. Everybody was keeping secrets–some of them really unnecessary to keep–and there were several dramatic climaxes involving confrontations, but nothing was ever really resolved.

The Good

This is definitely a cute book. Hara is a fun protagonist, and she’s coming from a totally understandable place. She’s never quite fit in, living in Iowa, so of course she’d jump at the chance to try to figure out who her birth parents are. She and Yujun have some serious chemistry together, and I think the scenes I enjoyed the most were with the two of them getting to know each other. I was entertained by the book for the most part, and I did get absorbed into the story.

The Okay

A lot of things are convenient to the plot. That Hara randomly meets Yujun, that her father left behind photographs potentially showing Hara her mother, that her roommate has access to a database that can help her… Especially with some of the big reveals towards the end, some of that convenience takes you out of the story when thinking about it.

The Bad

I was not a fan of the ending of this book. I’m going to avoid putting any spoilers in this section, but overall I found it a combination of unbelievably convenient and annoyingly unsatisfying. I don’t believe that all of the characters involved would have made the choices they did–and I would have liked a longer timeline. The plot of the book only spans about a two week period but it has all the tragedy and drama of months of action. I already have a lot of trouble immersing myself in stories that have romance and short timelines, but that everything that happened in this book managed to cram itself into a two week period was pretty frustrating.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this book. The summer romance, the fun details about Seoul, and the main character’s search for answers were entertaining and compelling. But at a certain point, I realized how many unresolved characters and plot points there were and how little time there was to find a satisfying ending for it all. I was pretty disappointed by the ending, and I don’t think a lot of it made sense. The conflicts were all deflated but not resolved. I honestly don’t know where the story was meant to end, but I don’t think it was supposed to be that clipped off. This is one of those rare cases where I wish a book were the pilot of a series because at least then I’d know there’s meant to be some resolution later.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “Review: Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick”

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