Cover Image: Once Upon a K-Prom

Once Upon a K-Prom

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content warnings: main character with low self esteem, bullying, harassment, anxiety, emotional abuse, death of a parent (in the past)


Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho is a cutesy YA novel following Elena Soo, an anxious teenager who feels like she’ll never be out of her sibling’s shadows and her childhood best friend who is a K-Pop idol now. With overzealous fans, band mates with secrets, and stylish pink hair, Robbie Choi definitely isn’t the kid that Elena remembers. What will happen when Robbie shows up at her door to keep a promise he made to Elena years ago?

What I loved:
• Elena was incredibly relatable. I grew up with a mother who favored my younger brother (most of the time if not all) so I understand the struggle she has with feeling like she’s stuck in the shadow of her sisters and her twin brother. 
• I loved Robbie and Elena’s friendship! I loved that they picked up where they left off but also still had to learn one another and how they would fit into each other’s lives. I loved their chemistry and their inside jokes.
• This was a quick and easy read that made my heart feel all soft.
• All of the references to Korean culture and language, especially as a K-Pop fan!

What I wish were different:
• There were a few storylines that didn’t feel like they had been finished or wrapped up enough, like everything with Elena’s mom still felt like a frayed edge. Their relationship definitely needed more work.
• I wish there hadn’t been any miscommunication between the two main characters but they’re teenagers so maybe I’m not entirely mad about it.

Overall, Once Upon a K-Prom was a cute story with cute characters! I definitely would recommend it to anyone who enjoys K-Pop or K-Dramas, friends-to-lovers or overly sweet, cheesy romance novels!
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Okay, stay with me: 

Friends, to strangers, to kinda friends, to lovers.

Honestly, need I say more? 

The way Kat managed to write a book that's equal parts wallflower becomes a star and pop star who's just like us, that's art. Also, including the critiques of the K-pop talent agencies controlling nature? Masterful! 

My only qualm, there's a character, I won't say who, that should've been a Taurus. Loving food that much is Taurus behaviour.
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This was such a cute book! I'm a huge fan of K-pop and Kat Cho so the combination of both made this one of my highly anticipated reads. The story was at once funny, playful, and lighthearted, but I also really enjoyed the sections that spoke about Elena's exploration of her identity. Like some others have noted, I can definitely see this book played out as a movie. Overall entertaining and would recommend to others!
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Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho follows Elena Soo. Elena has always felt overshadowed by her older sisters, her more popular twin brother, and even her best friend. Elena absolutely doesn’t want to go to the prom. She is entirely focused on saving the local community center. When childhood-friend-turned-K-Pop-star Robbie Choi comes to ask Elena to prom to fulfill a seven-year-old promise, she is confused. Elena didn’t expect him to keep this promise. She also doesn’t quite recognize this new Robbie as the old Robbie she used to love. Elena knows Robbie is the only person who truly accepted her for who she is, and although Robbie seems different now, she can’t help but feel the same way she always has about him.

This is a cute and fun story. I liked reading from the perspectives of both Elena and Robbie. The K-Pop aspect is really cool as well.
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I was so excited for this book, and it delivered in ways that surprised me. Kat Cho manages to put a new spin on YA romcoms and K-pop YA with some absolutely fantastic mutual pining and slowburn. This book had all the fixings, a premise that nabs you, character growth, secondary characters that you want more of, and a childhood friends to lovers romance that you can’t help but root for. Some of the dialogue and general flow didn't flow as well as I might have liked but personally, the story ultimately won out. 

In my opinion, what makes most YA romcoms what they are is the fact that while there is a romance at play, perhaps the most important thing is the growth of the characters, and I think that’s absolutely the case here. While I did sympathise and root for Elena throughout the book, I was also glad to see her called out and work to change when she messed up. A perfect teenage heroine is a complete fantasy and Cho shows us someone flawed in a way that felt very relatable, and how she grows into a better person with her realisations. We also see this with Robbie, with emotional growth and relearning how to not be in the spotlight with Elena being the unspoken requirement for them ending up together. It’s satisfying to watch two people get better, not just because of or for each other, but because they want to be better. 

Another big facet of this book is K-pop, and while I by no means can speak to the accuracy of its inclusion in the book, I did really enjoy the parts where it came into play. The little K-pop bios of the characters throughout as well as the way their public versus personal personas played out. Also, in all honesty, I think my favourite character might have been Sooyeon (and I would 100% read another book in this world with her or one of the other boys of WDB as the main characters). Overall, I thought it was a fun part of the book, though a part of me wishes that we’d gotten to see even more of it through Robbie’s perspective outside of his own relationship with Elena. 

I genuinely enjoyed this book and I thought it had great fun with a lot of classic tropes (mutual pining, childhood friends to lovers, slowburn, celebrityxnormalperson, etc). I do wish that some of the in-scene action had flowed and been developed a bit more as to even better accentuate the great story at play. For all my fans of K-pop YA, and/or YA romcoms with a lot of heart and character growth, this one’s for you!
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Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review! 

Recently I’ve been craving friends to lovers and THIS HITS THE SPOT! Childhood friends to lovers with promises they refuse to break makes me so weak in the knees. Once Upon a K-Prom is a beautifully written, page turning playful yet passionate romance novel. The slowburn, the characters dynamics and of course the drama makes this book a must read for romance readers!

I should also point out I read this book in under 15 hours- that’s how good it is!
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I received a copy of Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho from Disney Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon a K-Prom was such a fun, light, and entertaining novel to read. It follows Elena Soo, who has trouble figuring out who she is as she tends to try different things before moving on. At the moment, Elena and her best friend are trying to raise awareness at school to support the local community centre that is in danger of closing due to a lack of funding. They're hoping to convince the student body to spend less on the upcoming prom and using part of those expenses for the community centre. This idea doesn't sit too well with the students at the school, especially those planning prom. All of a sudden, Elena's childhood best friend - Robbie - turns up outside her house to ask her to prom. Which sounds like a wonderful surprise - except that Elena hasn't spoken to Robbie in years and he is now an international K-Pop star. 

I really enjoyed the lighthearted parts of the story - I love a fun, YA novel and one that features a K-Pop group is always fun (I really liked Axie Oh's XOXO) but sometimes I did find it harder to like Elena. She seemed like a passionate person - she really cared about the community centre and those she knew there - but she had a lot of trouble seeing that as a part of her identity. Her own sense of identity was that of a non-identity and while this became a point of development for her - I don't know if I fully believed this part of the plot/story development. But I was totally here for the romance, the high school prom setting, and it's always fun to see these K-pop idols written into YA books. All in all, I enjoyed Once Upon a K-Prom and I recommend it to fans of XOXO by Axie Oh, K-Pop, and YA prom novels.
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Once Upon a K-Prom is a fun and perfect Spring read. 

The plot is adorable. First of all it is one of my favorite things. Childhood friends who discover that they might see each other differently when they get older. Also this is kind of like the dream, not even just with K-pop, when you are younger that you are going to meet someone famous and they are going to fall in love with you. Lol. They don’t have teen pop magazines anymore but I was pretty sure Rain was going to come to my house and tell me to run away with him. (just kidding) Anyway it was just such a fun and feel good story to read. 

Now there was miscommunication but if you have ever seen a K-drama…that’s the name of the game. Lol. I actually didn’t mind that it was a part of the story because it reminded me of dramas I love to watch. Plus they are teenagers so it's easy to get carried away with emotions. 

I liked Elena a lot. I felt like she was really relatable as a teen. 

I found myself fitting characters into K-pop idols I know. I’m like hmm Robbie seems a little like JK and Sooyeon seems like IU. Of course I have no idea how anyone would be in real life. Just surface similarities.Ha ha I really loved the way they interacted with one another.

I was super excited that it was set in the Chicago Suburbs since it’s where I’ve grown up and lived all my life. I’ve always wished that we could get a Kcon here. Ha Ha. I felt like it felt very nondescript though. If the characters didn’t specifically say Chicago, I felt like it could have been any city. In the grand scheme of things though that’s simply because I live here I care. If I didn’t it would have absolutely zero impact on the story.

I really liked the story. It’s nice to have something fun to read every once in a while. I think it would be a super cute movie.
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“Was that EXO? I used to like them back in middle school” 
that was the moment I officially felt too old to be reading this story. I liked EXO when I was in my late 20’s. Ok my age worries aside let’s talk about this book. 
This is story of young girl that feels like everyone  but her best friend thinks she’s useless and forgettable. All her older sisters have moved to glamours new lives and her parents and classmates only have eyes for her Twin brother. 

She does have one great friend and together they’ve joined forces to form a sort of “anti prom” committee. Their wish is to have kids donate part of what they would had spend on their prom routine. All this save a local community center our lead volunteers in. Sadly this has drawn the ire of  the  popular kids who think she wants to CANCEL prom. Two of the girls seem to be leaders and tend to make our leads life difficult. 

So how does our K-prom play into this? Fl lead used to have a childhood friend. This boy moved  back to South Korea when they were in their small children. They promised to keep in touch and be friends forever. He also promised he would came back and take her to prom. Yet they  loss touch after a few years and she did not know anything about him till he debuted in a kpop group. Now they are world famous and one day he shows up at her door claiming he is there to take her to prom. This sounds adorable but he comes with a film crew and she being a normal human says no thank you and closes the door on him. 
So here our story takes off. Two friends reconnecting after many years apart. One being a word famous kpop star. The other a girl with lots of abandonment and trust issues.  One hiding and ulterior motive for being back.  What could possibly go wrong? 
Totally recommend this book. Kpop fans would love it and people that know zero about kpop will be ok because the author explains everything in layman's terms. 
I should also share that Arc was given to me for free for my honest review by NetGalley and Disney Publishing worldwide.
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When I first picked this up and read the first chapter, I thought this was going to be a drag to read because I wasn’t in the mood to read a high school prom story at the moment. Few weeks later, I picked it up again and never put it back down!

Elena’s childhood best friend, Robbie Choi is back in town and he’s a big K-Pop star now. He comes around asking her to go to prom because they made a promise as kids but Elena isn’t a kid anymore and prom is the least of her concerns. She’s trying to bring awareness to kids at school that the money they are spending for prom could go to a good cause like the community center she volunteers at. But Robbie is persistent, so when he keeps popping up in her life, they start to renew their bond and this time their relationship is on another level, one that Elena isn’t sure about.

This story is so cute! There is something about these “falling for a K-Pop star” books that is so addictive, even if at first I didn’t think I would be into this one – it got me in the end! I loved seeing Elena and Robbie rekindle their friendship and seeing it turn into something more, despite the drama that comes a long with it. It seriously played out like a K-drama show and I hope someone (Netflix) makes this one into a movie. But it has that recipe or formula that K-drama’s have, a relationship that has it’s problems and funny starts, then the feelings start catching and the betrayal or drama and then a super sweet ending that pulls at your heart strings. This story has all of that.

WDB is the K-pop group that Robbie is a part of and we get to meet the members. They are so sweet, except the leader of the group Jongdae but the only K-pop group I know is BTS so it’s who I compared to in my mind when reading. I am always fascinated when reading these K-pop romance stories when the business side of K-pop groups are revealed. There is a lot of sacrifice that goes into becoming a superstar, sometimes at the expense of who these stars really are inside as people and I think it’s a good reminder to us who just see them as celebrities that it’s not all glitz and glamour. It’s a controlling industry and we get a glimpse into how Robbie’s life is restricted as well as Sooyeon, the girl pop star they are friends with.

As for the characters, Elena isn’t the most likable but I think she is relatable. Sure, she’s the girl who thinks prom is a waste of time, and she’s a planner, a bit controlling and when things don’t go her way, she freaks out or pushes people away. She doesn’t know what she’s good at, or what her passion is (besides the community center) and always feels invisible compared to her siblings. But I think that’s where Robbie balances her out – he is sweet and laid back.

Why you should read it:
*childhood friends to lovers, sweet love story, falling for a K-pop star
*if you love K-drama and K-pop, this one is for you
*loved all the Korean rep plus K-pop industry info

Why you might not want to read it:
*not into K-pop

My Thoughts:

Honestly these K-pop romance stories have a good formula and it works. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this one and yet in the end it was pulling on my heartstrings and making me wish a K-pop star asked me to prom! I need this one as a movie on Netflix, it would be so cute.
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I’m always here for a book about K-Pop groups, lol. I think I have read almost all of the ones that have been published. Some have been betters than others, but that is obviously a personal opinion. For this one, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I have read this author’s previous work and found myself a bit underwhelmed. I actually didn’t even realize it was the same author until after I had been approved for this title. There were aspects of this particular book that I did enjoy but I also ran into a few issues as well. They didn’t stop me from liking the book for the most part though.

The book is told from two perspectives, Elena and Robbie. The point-of-views were a little weird as one was told in first-person and the other was third. I have never seen this in a book before so it threw me off. I don’t necessarily think it was bad but it does kind of leave a disconnect with the transition.

Elena has a lot going on in her life from dealing with a twin that isn’t much like her, saving a community center, and having feelings for an old friend who is now in a K-Pop band. I did relate to her when it came to her feelings for prom. She felt that a lot of people over spend and it’s not as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be. I felt the same about mine. I did go, but if it wasn’t for my friends I don’t think I would have haha. I definitely didn’t spend much on anything and bought my junior prom dress at a thrift store. Dealing with siblings is also something I can relate to. I have five so it’s just part of life for me! Elena very much wants to do the right thing and believes in causes that impact those around her. I have been trying to do the same and put my money where my mouth is and help out those who need it more. It does get disheartening when those around you don’t see it that way and don’t feel like helping in any way. I felt for Elena.

Robbie’s part was more or less him trying to woo Elena and also what it is like to be in a K-Pop band. I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite point-of-view but it at least added something to the overall plot.

Now, the plot was a bit of a struggle for me. It was packed with a lot of topics (as mentioned when discussing Elena) and it didn’t leave a lot of room to fully develop each one. It left a lot to be desired and kind of make the romance between them underwhelming.

I did like that there was tid bits of facts for each guy in the group. I also liked that there are some text exchanges as well. I always enjoy seeing other types of formats in a book.

Overall, this was good. I think that it could have been better if it wasn’t packed full of things there could have been more room for development.
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Release Date: 05.17.2022
Review Date: 03.11.2022

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.

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.

I'm really glad I ended up reading this one as an arc. Usually when I try to read young adult contemporary I end up picking up the audiobook and listening too quickly, not taking in the story and not enjoying it, but not with this one. I thought it was adorable. It kept me laughing. I enjoyed Kat Cho's other duology and even though this was an entirely different story I loved it just as good. Will definitely keep my eye out for more from her. I don't really have a lot to say about it aside from it was a good time. It might be fun to see more books about the WDB members.
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This book was cute and definitely gave me young teen Disney channel vibes. I enjoyed and had fun reading it through all the cheesiness and fluff. Definitely would recommend for anyone looking for a YA romance and also has a K-Pop hankering! 

However, the “not like other girls” and “miscommunication” troupe just isn’t something I enjoy reading anymore. She doesn’t want to go to Prom and doesn’t understand why people would put so much into one night. Which felt weirdly condescending towards the girls who had an interest in attending from the beginning. Also, like for the communication break-down being the rough spot of the book in the last 30 pages before it being fixed right before the end is just kinda tiring.
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I loved Cho's Wicked Fox duology, so I was excited for this novel. Unfortunately, I found it incredibly dull. The characters were indistinguishable from each other. I liked Elena's family dynamic, and I wish that had been explored more. I feel like there were too many plots going on, with the prom, the community center, the little asides with Tia, the K-fest, Robbie returning, and Elena's issues with her family.  It was just a lot. If prom and Robbie returning had been the main plot, I think it would have worked better. Cho is great incorporating Korean into dialogue. 

Something that absolutely needs to be addressed is the height and weight numbers in the book. These are completely unnecessary. Having these numbers displayed for young readers can be incredibly triggering for those struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
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I wanted to love this, but it was just so formulaic. And I love formula! I read a lot of romance novels, and I'm not unhappy to read something predictable, but I want it to feel special. Elena was annoying  and I loved the concept but it never was as good as I wanted it to be.
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What a cute K pop contemporary romance book this was. Had me smiling from ear to ear while reading and in typical contemporary romance fashion i loved it hehe
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What happens when your childhood best friend (and crush) has come back into town after 4 years of not talking to keep a promise you made as children? Elena Soo is about to find out. Elena Soo and Robbie Choi have been childhood best friends but at 10 he had to move away to Seoul and begin his training to become a Kpop star... before he left he kissed her and they both promised to go to prom together. Years later, Robbie is now an international pop star,,, and he has just shown up in front of Elena’s front door and asked her to prom just like they promised all those years ago. But Elena is at a lost, her best friend stopped talking to her, he ghosted her and now all these years later he is a completely different person. She knows there is something else going on... there has to be a bigger reason for him coming back all these years later just to go to prom with her but Robbie is full of secrets and Elena is not sure she is ready to have her heart broken again by the one person she’s always loved. Robbie has worked his entire life to have his music heard, he has trained, given up any semblance of a social life, and everything about him is a carefully crafted image to make it into the kpop industry. What Robbie has always dreamed of is having his songs and music, his own work, be heard, but he knows he has to play the game to get the power he needs. But there has always been something besides his music that he’s loved, and that was his childhood best friend, the only girl who truly knows him before the fame. He just has to show her that he’s still the same guy and that despite everything, they still work. This was such a cute story! I loved that we got to read both characters POV and it felt like such a fun addition to have actual Kpop stars added into the book to give it a more realistic feel. As  someone who listens to Kpop and catches up on some of the drama its really captures the pressure that Kpop stars go through in the industry, especially the no dating rule and companies having control over their stars and the fact that they could be terminated for ridiculous clauses in their contracts. It’s a hard industry, it’s rules are rigid, and scandal is always ripe for these idols. Being a KPOP idol isn’t easy and this book was such a sweet take on romance in the industry. Definitely give it a go! ( Seriously it’s too cute read it)
*Thanks Netgalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
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This book was agonizingly cute. Compelling characters, awesome secondary cast, plot elements that felt natural and not contrived. I'm always a sucker for a good friends-to-more story, and this does not disappoint. Add in the kdrama type elements, and I was desperately sold. I'd easily hand this to a younger teen as well as an older one; the romance and conflicts are more universal than they might be in books targeted more specifically at older teenagers.
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This was a cute little read.  far from believable, but any story titled Once Upon A... can be cut some slack for that.  I loved that the two main characters had a deep friendship as children and that they could get themselves back there in a way.  I also liked how the difficult side of being a ten pop star was discussed, as this is a field that looks glamorous, but clearly has some deep pitfalls and might not be all it's cracked up to be. Definitely recommended for teens looking for sweet romances and for sure for KPop  stans and fans!
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High school is rough even without your childhood best friend moving away and becoming a K-pop heartthrob. Elena is facing the closure of her beloved community center, fear of public speaking a bad relationship with her twin and mean girls making life miserable. The last thing she expects is to have her childhood best friend turned K-pop star show up to fulfill their childhood pact of going to prom together. Elena and Robbie are absolutely cute and you can’t help but root for them straight for the beginning. There are obviously bumps in the road but they made the ending feel that much sweeter and earned. I loved seeing how Elena transformed and bloomed throughout everything and I also liked seeing Robbie’s own growth even if we weren’t let in on what was actually going on in his mind.
The writing style was YA and Elena’s voice felt age appropriate for her character but even as an adult I still enjoyed it. The story was fairly fast paced and well written. It ran the gamut of being humorous, hopeful, painful and emotional. Would recommend for anyone who loves high school romance, K-pop and strong female characters.
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