Published by Kokila on May 3, 2022
When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Kang doesn't think much of trying it out. She doesn't believe anything will come of it--she's an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It's been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected--she's got a whole extended family from her father's side half a world away in Korea. Her father's family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn't had a great relationship with her husband's family, which is why she's kept them secret, but she can't stop Chloe from travelling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.
Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off--she's busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother's grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she's loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad's family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?
This was my most recent pick for one of my book clubs, so I was hoping it would live up to my expectations and be a fun read! And it was, but it was more serious than I expected at times. But I really liked this. The references to K-drama tropes and shows were so fun (and had me wanting to jump back into my list of K-dramas to watch), and I always love reading about someone who suddenly comes into great wealth and privilege, in a fun rags-to-riches kind of way.
The family drama in this was pretty intense, and I appreciated that there were some complex cultural and familial differences between Chloe and her father’s family that couldn’t be easily glossed over or overcome. Things were serious and complicated, and there was no magic solution to neatly tie everything up.
There wasn’t anything I would consider romance in this story, which I thought was a relief because there was already plenty going on! So don’t go into this expecting a romance while Chloe is overseas because there really isn’t any (I’ve seen some reviews where people comment negatively on the lack of romance but I don’t think I got any romance/rom-com vibes going into this – but in case that’s what you’re looking for, it isn’t here).
I wasn’t overly interested in the subplot involving Chloe’s friends back home and thought it was kind of distracting. I thought the story was best when it focused on Chloe’s relationship with her mom, and with her father’s family, but I really liked the new friend she made while in Korea and reading about Chloe exploring Seoul with her.
I will say that I thought the ending was pretty solid and definite, until the last couple of sentences, which surprised me. I thought this was a standalone novel, but it certainly seems like there could be a sequel, which I would be interested in if it explores more of Chloe’s relationship with her father’s family.