Book Title: Once Upon a K-Prom
Author: Kat Cho
Release Date: May 17th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Music/K-Pop
My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
What would you do if the world’s biggest K-pop star asked you to prom? Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon, this hilarious and heartfelt novel brings the glamour and drama of the K-pop world straight to high school.
Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing – she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged.
So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together. But that was seven years ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love.
Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?
Before reading Once Upon a K-Prom, I knew very little about K-Pop. However, as soon as I saw the cover for this book and read the description, I thought it sounded so cute that I wanted to give it a try, despite my lack of knowledge on the topic. I will say, I’d probably recommend doing a little light research on K-Pop if you’re entirely unfamiliar with it like I was, just because it’s way more complicated than I thought it was! I did learn a lot while reading this, but it might’ve been easier to follow along with all of the terms and references had I had a basic understanding of it.
Despite this, I did enjoy my time with Once Upon a K-Prom. It was a super cute and quick read about a romance between two old friends who reconnect after a few years apart, though now as different people. This was certainly a challenge for Elena and Robbie as they learned to navigate their friendship as new people, and with new feelings. Their romance was sweet, though I did have a few issues with it.
My main concern with the romance, and with the entire story, was Robbie’s character. We should’ve had more chapters in his point of view, because it would have helped the reader understand his motives better. We get a few hints that something more than what we see is happening, but because we spend very little time in his point of view, when the revelation came for what was actually going on (sorry for being vague; I don’t want to spoil anything), it felt like it came out of left field, and was also out of character for Robbie. If we’d had more time in his thoughts—even if it wasn’t revealed outright—we would have had a clearer picture of what was to come.
His characterization just felt a little bit inconsistent to me. He had all these feelings from childhood, but the way he acts on them in his teen years doesn’t quite match up with that. And I know part of this was due to growing up as an idol, but I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more consistency, especially with his feelings and actions towards Elena.
In addition to that, everything also always seemed to be Elena’s fault. She was constantly being blamed for everything—and while she certainly wasn’t blameless, it got a little crazy with how much responsibility she was piled with. Sure, she contributed to a lot of the issues that take place, but it wasn’t all on her. Really, I just wish that this had been addressed better, because to me it felt like her entire personality (scheduling everything out, always having a plan), was the reason things in her life went wrong. This is problematic to me, because as someone who thrives with schedules and consistency, and knows several other people who do too, I felt the conflict could have been handled better.
Even with all of these issues, I still flew through Once Upon a K-Prom. I read it in a matter of two days, during finals week at that, and did enjoy it. I loved the banter between the band members, and Elena’s friendship with Josie. These were some of the highlights of the story for me, and really kept me going.
I also loved reading about Elena’s time at the community center. I thought it was so endearing, and most of my favorite scenes were in relation to the center. It was an interesting addition to the plot and really strengthened the story. Throughout the entire book, I was rooting for Elena’s success in raising enough money to save the center, and by the time I finished, I had a huge smile on my face.
Ultimately, I did end up liking Once Upon a K-Prom, though I couldn’t ignore my issues with it, which is why I decided to give it a 3.5 star rating. Overall though, it was very cute, and I read it so quickly. If you enjoy K-Pop and childhood friends-to-lovers stories, I’d definitely recommend this one!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
Check out my last Blog Post: Irresponsible Puckboy (ARC Review / Tour Post)