Review: Somewhere Only We Know

17th April 2023
Somewhere Only We Know

0 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.

Oh, the magic of K-pop! It just brings me so much joy whether it’s the music, the groups, or the books dealing with the subject – and this one was no exception. It made me stay up very late (you could also say early) so I could inhale it in a day. It made me laugh. It made me cry. And while this would usually mean I had a five star read in my hands, it also made me have complicated feelings that ultimately cost it the top spot … Let’s unpack!

The Idol and the Paparazzo

I liked Lucky a lot, but she’s also a little hard to grasp. That’s not that unreasonable considering she has two personas: the international superstar and the version of her true self she was able to cling to through it all. As the former, she’s sexy, and flirty, and incredibly self-confident. As the latter, she’s insecure, anxiety-ridden, and disillusioned. She’s constantly switching back and forth throughout the novel, which made it a little hard to completely connect with her.

Well, and then there’s Jack. He’s kind of lost, running away from family expectations and his own dreams he doesn’t even dare to dream. Instead, he’s working as a paparazzo and hopes to make this a career of sorts. And that’s the part of his character that really drove me mad. Like, seriously, famous people deserve privacy as much as you do, Jack! And it’s even worse considering that Lucky is still in her teens and Jack knows this. I mean, it makes for a great conflict, but I wasn’t happy at all with how this developed. I was utterly disappointed in Jack by the end. I had hoped the time with Lucky would have opened his eyes, but ultimately it wasn’t he himself who decided this was all a bad idea, he only came to his senses because some third party had to show him that there are no morals in that field.

Day and Night in Hong Kong

A whirlwind day exploring a city is the stuff I adore. I love visiting interesting places and seeing them through the characters’ eyes turning ordinary things into extraordinary moments. That’s the aspect of the book that really drew me in and I loved running around Hong Kong with Lucky and Jack. And I think my favourite moment was the tai chi class of elderly women Lucky joined at one point. Oh, and all the many food references made me extremely jealous and hungry – though there’s no way two people can eat SO MUCH FOOD over the course of one day. I mean, I can eat a lot myself but that got really out of hand.

Well, food is a love language and it certainly helped Lucky and Jack fall hard for each other. Usually, I’m always a little judgy when it goes this fast, but in this case, it felt believable: genuine attraction paired with a crash course in getting to know each other. And, well, they are teens after all and the whole setup kinda reminded me of how I ended up with a boyfriend at 17 (though that weekend was certainly a lot less glamorous than theirs), so yeah, I felt that. I liked how the relationship developed and where it ended up. And yet, something was missing. I just didn’t ship it like crazy. I wasn’t as invested as I would’ve liked to be.

Also, I sort of wish there had been a couple more (recurring) characters. Any other character we only get to meet in passing, which might be fitting for the concept, but the fragments with them were all so short and there were a couple of interesting ones that might have been nice additions.

Digging Deep

There are a couple of titbits I want to highlight:

  • I really liked the anxiety rep. Though it’s a different beast than mine, it felt familiar.
  • There are also nice messages about following one’s dreams and just working hard for it and not giving up vs. attributing achieving goals to mere talent. That hit very close to home.
  • The depiction of crazy fan culture and the toll it takes on the idols is also very heartbreaking but unfortunately oh so very realistic.
  • Speaking of realistic: I loved that the ending wasn’t one of those absolutely unbelievable over the top things, though that also meant that it left me a tad sad. Lucky deciding to go her own way since she is not able to get the support and change she needs from the industry is both really wholesome and exasperating at the same time.
Bibliographic Information
2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Paperback, 328 pages
ISBN-13: 9781466898837
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