Hello, I Love You: A Novel

Hello, I Love You: A Novel

by Katie M. Stout

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Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who's topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother's breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie's twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, Katie M. Stout's Hello, I Love You explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466854598
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 543,819
File size: 960 KB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

KATIE M. STOUT is from Atlanta, Georgia, and works for an international charity that sends her to fun places like Spain and Singapore. When she's not writing, you can find her drinking an unhealthy amount of chai tea and listening to Girls' Generation, Teen Top, and all her other favorite K-pop tunes. Hello, I Love You is her first novel.

KATIE M. STOUT is from Atlanta, Georgia, and works for an international charity that sends her to fun places like Spain and Singapore. When she's not writing, you can find her drinking an unhealthy amount of chai tea and listening to Girls' Generation, Teen Top, and all her other favorite K-pop tunes. Hello, I Love You is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Hello, I Love You

A Novel

By Katie M. Stout

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Katie M. Stout
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5459-8


Big Brother,

I want you to know something: It wasn't your fault, not any of it. And I'm so sorry. Sorry for ditching the family and for shipping off to the other side of the world.

But, mostly, I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when it mattered. I should have told someone before it got bad. It's just that you're my big brother; you've always been the strong one. And I miss that.

You're probably laughing hysterically right now, imagining me — the foreign language–challenged child — bumbling my way through the airport, a lonesome little white girl with a Southern accent and too much hair spray. Just know that with every step I take farther from home, the more I miss you.

Maybe this trip will give me time to figure things out. I certainly hope it does, anyway.

I could end this letter with "from Korea, with love" like that James Bond movie in Russia, but the plane hasn't landed yet, so I'll just leave you with ...

Almost in Korea, with love,


The subway doors open, and a flood of boarding passengers sweeps me and my two giant suitcases onto the train. Elbows jab into my sides, and the wheels on my bags run over toes as a thousand of my closest Korean friends pack into the tiny metro car. Half an hour inside the Republic of Korea, and I've already been thrown into the life of a national.

All the seats are full, so I park my bags in front of an elderly woman, her eyes half-obscured by folds of wrinkled skin, holding a plastic sack full of something gray and ... slithering. Octopus, maybe? I straddle one of my suitcases and sit, letting myself sway with the rocking of the train and giving my jet-lagged body a rest. Like I haven't just been sitting on a plane for fourteen hours.

The man beside me plays the music on his MP3 player so loud I can hear the singer wailing through the headphones, and he stares at me like I'm an alien. I avert my gaze, letting it roam the rest of the car. I'm one of two Westerners leaving the airport station, and basically everyone besides me is on their phone. Except for that couple a few feet away, who manage to canoodle in the microscopic-size standing room, whispering to each other in Korean.

South Korea. It still hasn't registered yet — that I left everything, everyone back in Nashville and set up camp in the "Far East." I'm standing on a Korean train rattling through Korean tunnels toward my new Korean school.

I am insane.

For possibly the millionth time since my plane took off from Atlanta, I ask myself what I'm doing. Sweat moistens my palms, and I have to close my eyes, my breathing bordering on hyperventilation.

Hydrogen. Helium. Lithium. Beryllium. Boron. Carbon.

I go through the entire periodic table of elements three times, the repetition numbing my brain and slowing my pulse, emptying my mind of any anxiety. My AP chemistry teacher taught me the trick, told me it helped him calm down. I discovered this summer that it works for me, too.

The train stops at the next station, and we lose a few passengers but gain even more. The crowd shifts, pushing and pulling me against the tide of bodies, and I curse myself for not being willing to wait twenty minutes for the express train, which has assigned seating. Waiting longer would beat getting assaulted every time a new passenger boards the commuter train.

I glance down at the scrap of notebook paper I stashed inside the pocket of my jean shorts earlier, double-checking the name of my stop a dozen times.

The automated female voice announces the name of the next station, which thankfully sounds a lot like what I've written phonetically on my paper — Gimpo. The train lurches to a stop, and I grab the handles of my bags, forcing my way through a mass of humanity thicker than Momma's grits.

I stagger onto the platform just as the doors close, and, mustering as much gumption as I have, pancake any stray Koreans as I force my way through the crowd fighting to board the train. Once I climb the escalator and maneuver through the automated gate, I emerge into the surprisingly thick humidity of a Korean summer.

My grip on my suitcases tightens as I make my way to the line of taxis on the street. I ford through the throng of tourists with their own luggage.

The metro can't take me all the way to the Korean School of Foreign Studies from Incheon International Airport. Normally, I could take the subway to this stop, then get on a public bus — as the representative from the school suggested to me via video chat last week — but when I planned this trip, I knew I wouldn't want to venture that with my luggage and zero knowledge of the area.

I stand by the curb and scan the line of taxis until I spot one of the drivers holding a sign that reads GRACE WILDE. I throw him a frantic wave, and he meets me halfway to the van. He helps me lift my bags into the back, and I collapse into a seat in the middle row.

He peers at me in the rearview mirror, obviously waiting for some kind of direction. I guess his superiors didn't inform him of our destination. Biting my lip, I flip through my Korean phrase book searching for the right words.

"Ahn nyeong ha se yo!" Hello. "Umm ..." I stare at the Romanized translations, the multitude of consonants and letter combinations I've never seen — let alone pronounced — mixing inside my travel-weary brain like a blender on HIGH.

"Where you go?" the man asks.

"High school!" I sigh, thanking God this man speaks at least a little English. "Korean School of Foreign Studies. On Ganghwa Island."

"Oh, I know, I know." He shifts out of PARK, and we merge into traffic.

I sink lower and let my head rest on the seatback. The long hours of traveling are beginning to catch up with me. I was so hyped on adrenaline when we landed in Seattle and again in Incheon that I didn't think about the fact that I hadn't slept even a minute on either of my flights. But now a dull ache pounds just behind my eyebrows, and sleep seductively whispers to lull me out of consciousness.

Sunlight glares off the cars in front of us. We drive farther away from the city, away from Incheon — and away from Seoul, South Korea's capital, which sits only about an hour by train from the airport. Fast food restaurants and digital billboards are quickly replaced by a long bridge that shoots us across the narrow channel of water separating the island from the mainland.

As the van bumps down off the bridge and onto island soil, I watch buildings pop up around us. Not a city, really, but a town. It reminds me of a beach town I visited with my family back in middle school, one of those with hole-in-the-wall restaurants on every corner serving local fishermen's latest catches, where the population doubles during tourist season and all the shops close at six in the evening. But instead of a diversity of people — white, black, Latino, Indian — I see only Asian. Dark hair. Dark eyes.

I finger my own blond curls, which flattened along the journey but still hang down to my elbows. Momma likes to call my hair my "crowning glory," a gift from her side of the family. I've always loved it; it matches perfectly with what my sister, Jane, calls my "hipster look," but I now realize it makes me stick out here like a goth at a country concert.

And trust me when I tell you, that's pretty obvious. I've been to my fair share of concerts, both country and otherwise. When your dad is one of the biggest record producers in the country music business and your brother has topped the country charts five years in a row, you start to learn your way around the Mecca of the music lover.

I'm tempted to reach into my purse and pull out my iPod. I can think of at least ten songs that would fit this moment perfectly, my own background music to this new life I've started. But I resist the urge, wanting to make sure the cab driver has my full attention in case we need to communicate in broken English again.

It only takes us a few minutes to pass through the entirety of the town, and then the cab's climbing up a hill into the mountains, which tower over the coastline. We drive up and up, until a thin layer of fog hovers over the road, and we emerge at the crest of the hill. To the right is an overlook of the town we just drove through, then the channel, and in the distance, Incheon, though I can't see it. On the left side of the street, though, is a giant arch that stretches across the entrance to a plaza-like area, gold Korean characters glittering in the fading sunlight.

My new home.

We stop just in front of the arch, and I step out of the cab. But once I've pulled in a breath of campus air, my stomach clenches. The cabbie lifts my suitcases out of the van, and I fumble with my wallet, examining each bill carefully before handing him the money.

The taxi pulls away, and I turn my back on the gorgeous coastal view to stare up at the white stone building directly across the plaza, its gigantic staircase leading up to what I assume are classrooms and offices.

I can't help but wonder how different life would be if I'd done what my parents wanted — stayed at the same elite prep school for senior year. I would have kept all the same friends, gone to all the same parties, been hit on by every aspiring musician trying to get to my dad, and watched my ex-boyfriend date every other girl in school like the douche he is.

But instead of a stuffy prep school in Nashville, I'm here. Completely alone in a foreign country, searching the grounds for the administration offices and the school rep who said he would help me get settled in.

Magnesium. Aluminum. Silicon.

Moving here was my idea.

Phosphorous. Sulfur.

I can do this.


I can do this.


I can.




"This is your room." The school rep, Mr. Wang, stops outside a door in the long hallway on the third floor of the girl's dorm. He takes my key and knocks, then unlocks the door.

We enter into a narrow, white-walled room with bunk beds that take up nearly all the floor space. Two desks are shoved against the opposite wall, and there's just enough room to walk between them and the beds without having to turn sideways.

A girl sits at one of the desks, her shoulder-length black hair bobbing as she shoots up to her feet, a massive smile brightening her face.

"You are okay now?" Mr. Wang asks in his thickly accented English, inclining his head toward my roommate and dropping the room key into my palm.

"Yes, thank you." I bow my head like I read is the custom and watch him leave, my pulse kicking into high gear when the door slams shut.

My roommate lets out a little squeal, throwing her arms around me. I back up, both my suitcases clattering to the white tile floor. She bounces up and down with me still in her arms until I push her back with forced laughter.

"I'm so glad you're here!" She claps her hands in excitement. "And you're American!"

Her dark eyes are half-hidden behind thick, white-framed plastic glasses with lenses so big they look like they should be on a grandma's face, but I can still see them light up at the mention of the magic word, which I've already noticed makes you a celebrity around here. But this girl is different from the people I met in the administration building — her American accent is impeccable. She has a pale, narrow face, with eyes turned up at the edges and pink lipstick that every teen in the eighties would have coveted. And despite her ridiculous T-shirt, she's pretty in a tiny, impish way.

"My name's Sophie." She shoots out her hand and keeps it there until I hesitantly shake it. "Well, actually it's Sae Yi, but my English name is Sophie."

"I'm Grace."

"It's so nice to meet you." She's still beaming at me. "They didn't tell me you were American. Did they tell you anything about me?"

I reach down to pick up the handles of my suitcases, but she beats me to it. She hefts one onto the bottom bunk, which sports a bare mattress. I lift the other and place it beside the first.

"Umm ... no," I say, searching the room for a closet or dresser or something. I spot two miniwardrobes, stacked on top of each other. Talk about space conservation.

"Well, I'm Sophie, and I'm a senior. I'm from here." She holds up a finger, as if to stop my train of thought. "'Here' being Korea, not Ganghwa. I live in Seoul, which is way better than this old place." She wrinkles her nose, then brightens an instant later. "But I grew up in the States. That's why my English is so good. And — and it's just so good to meet you!" Her cheeks redden. "But I already said that."

A chuckle falls from my lips unconsciously. This girl's crazy, but at least she's nice.

"It's just that it will be nice to speak English again with someone," she continues. "You wouldn't believe how tiring it is only speaking Korean when you grew up with English."

I unzip one of the bags and begin to unpack my clothes, shoes, and toiletries. My entire life inside two suitcases. It's sort of pitiful, in a way, that I fit it all into two such small spaces. Of course, I didn't need a suitcase for the emotional baggage I've dragged along with me from Nashville.

"So you're American, then?" I ask, though Sophie probably doesn't need my prompting to keep up her soliloquy.

"Well, technically, I'm a Korean citizen, since I was born here. But my twin brother, Jason, and I lived with my dad in New York from the time we were babies. We visited Korea every summer, but we didn't move here until we were fourteen to be with our mom in Seoul."

"And now you're here on the island?"

She scowls, the first negative emotion I've seen cross her face yet. "Unfortunately."

I laugh. "Why come if you didn't want to?"

She sighs, dropping down into her desk chair. "It's a long story, but it involves my brother running away from home and dragging me along with him, even though I was top of my class last year and a total shoo-in for top this year. I had to leave all my friends and everything."

With a grunt, I grab a pile of clothes and make to drop them in one of the wardrobes, but I realize once I'm standing in front of them that the doors are closed and my hands are currently occupied.

"Here, let me help!" Sophie opens the doors. "You're on bottom. Just like the beds. I thought it'd be better if that matched. You know, easier to remember."

I take in the excitement that's practically oozing out of her, and a fresh wave of exhaustion washes over me. Jeez, I need some sleep.

Sophie frowns. "Oh, you look tired. How long have you been traveling?"

"Over twenty-four hours, including layovers."

Her eyes bug. "Then you need to get into bed! I'll be quiet so you can go to sleep." She runs her fingers across her mouth like a zipper, and another laugh escapes my lips. I'm gonna like this girl.

I manage to unpack enough of my stuff to take a quick shower and brush my teeth and crawl into bed, after covering it with the school-provided sheets. True to her word, Sophie keeps silent at her desk, her knees pressed against her chest, poring over a magazine.

I pull out my phone for the first time since I landed in Korea and see three missed calls from Momma. I have no idea why she felt the need to call again after I told her I'd arrived. It's not like we talked much when I was home, so why start now? Maybe opting for the international phone plan wasn't such a good idea after all.

She left a voice mail:

"Hey, Grace. Are you at the school yet? Let me know. But don't call if it's too early here because you know I need my eight hours of sleep. Call soon. Bye."

It's nine o'clock and home is fourteen hours behind, so she's most likely about to wake up and get ready for her yoga class. Later, she'll probably be carting around my younger sister, Jane, and making plans for a lunch date with one of the wives of Dad's partners. I'm just surprised she took the time to call before going to bed last night. There's no message from Dad, though that's not surprising. I can't remember the last time he initiated a conversation with me.

I click over to the celebrity gossip site I frequent, reminding myself — as I do every time — that this is pointless. I scroll through the latest articles, but none of the headlines catch my attention. With a sigh, I toss my phone onto the bed and ignore the curious eyes of Sophie, who watches me like I'm some kind of museum exhibit.

After a few good punches to my pillow, I settle in deep beneath the blanket I insisted on bringing from home, the one my aunt quilted for my sixteenth birthday. I didn't appreciate it at the time, and I wish I had thanked her properly before she died last year. But now it's one of the few things that remind me of home. It still smells the same — like lilac fabric softener and my favorite perfume. I take in a deep breath and swallow the sob that catches in the back of my throat.

The heavy silence of the dorm room presses against my chest, and I blink back hot tears. What have I done? Why didn't I listen to Momma and Dad, and just stay in Nashville? I kept telling myself as I packed up my things, as I boarded the airplane, that this was the right thing. If I wanted to keep any sort of relationship with my mother, we needed to be separated for a while. I still have no idea why I decided we needed an entire ocean between us or why I even chose Korea — it was just the first place that popped up on Google when I typed in "international boarding schools," probably thanks to Jane's search history, since I'm not the only one who considered getting out of Tennessee.


Excerpted from Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout. Copyright © 2015 Katie M. Stout. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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