About the Book

Title: Rebel Seoul (Rebel Seoul #1)
Published: 2017
Series: Rebel Seoul
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Instagram Husband
BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk: Needs Work
Bonus Factors: Jaegers, Korean
Anti-Bonus Factor: Fights
Relationship Status: It’s Not Me

Cover Story: Instagram Husband

This cover looks like someone took a vacation photo of the guy in the alley who was “casually” posed in the best spot to get a good shot of the cityscape behind. There are probably 20 or so outtakes on his phone.

The Deal

When Lee Jaewon watches the mysterious girl at the concert get carted away by what looks like government goons, he has no idea that his life’s about to change. He just knows that he has to keep his head down and earn himself a good placement for the two years of Neo Seoul’s mandatory military service.

Getting assigned to work at the Tower, the heart of Neo Seoul’s weapons division, is better than he could have hoped for. But then Jaewon learns that his role will be to supervise Tera, the mysterious girl from the concert who’s a part of a secret super soldier program, and he begins to realize that lying low isn’t always the best option, even if it means putting yourself at risk.

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

Jaewon’s a complicated dude … on the surface. He was abandoned to the streets at age 8, joined a street gang, and had to fend for himself. He works multiple jobs and lives in a shoebox to make ends meet, all the while going to—and doing well in—school. He’s not a great friend, but there are some issues in his past that make him closed off and wary of trust. But he’s kind of boring, and prone to leap into danger at the least provocation. We never clicked, and unfortunately I’m OK with that.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Jaewon is immediately drawn to Tera at the concert where they have their first run-in, but he finds that it’s not easy to break through her tough exterior when he’s actually trying to get to know her. He slowly works his way into her good graces, but there’s little chemistry between the two, and much more “telling” than showing of their feelings.

Talky Talk: Needs Work

There are things that I liked about Rebel Seoul, including the book’s setting—a futuristic, dystopian Seoul, South Korea—and the title, which is very clever. Oh had an interesting idea for a plot, too; I’m always drawn to stories in which the main characters realize that their world view is skewed in the wrong direction. But I struggled to get invested in the book. Oh’s writing is stilted and choppy at times, and she leans heavily on telling plot points that should have come through more organically.

To be frank, I was really disappointed in this book. I saw the rave reviews on Goodreads, and, although I try not to let that sort of thing sway me, I was expecting to like Rebel Seoul a whole lot more than I did. The plot wasn’t intricate, the characters were flat, the worldbuilding lackluster, and the love stories way too easy.

Bonus Factor: Jaegers

The Jaeger Gipsy Danger from Pacific Rim

Part of Neo Seoul’s military armament are God Machines (GMs), giant armored robots controlled by humans who ride inside. Spoiler alert: No one battles Kaiju, but there’s always room for that in the sequel*.

*As far as I know, there isn’t a sequel. But a girl can dream. Or just go watch Pacific Rim again.

Bonus Factor: Korean

I’m not familiar with the Korean language, but appreciate that Oh peppered phrases throughout Rebel Seoul. And I especially appreciated the glossary in the back for when the context clues weren’t enough.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Fights

Silhouettes of a battle, with both sides yielding swords and weapons, against a bright red background

People get into a lot of fights in Rebel Seoul, and I’m not sure why. Please tell me if this is a common occurrence in South Korean schools and I’m just unfamiliar with the cultural reference.

Relationship Status: It’s Not Me

I had high hopes for our date, Book. But as the night went on, I realized that we weren’t working out, at all. I think we’ll both be better off just doing our own thing.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Tu Books, and got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Rebel Seoul is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.