Sneak Peeks

Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. Read a sneak peek from Seoulmates by Susan Lee


Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. Read a sneak peek from Seoulmates by Susan Lee

Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. When did Hannah’s life become a K-drama?

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out — the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.

But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do — he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas — so well that he’s actually starring in one — is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.

Nothing says “I love you” more than patting your boy-friend’s back as his head is in a toilet, barfing up warm Bud Light.

He groans miserably.

I switch to rubbing circles and throw in a “there, there.” It’s not my dream date, but it’s a good place to be, all things considered. I started high school with no close ties and now I’m going into the summer and my final year with a perfect boyfriend and a built-in friend group. It’s funny how life can change so suddenly when you’re least expecting it.

We’ve come a long way, Nate and me. We’ve known each other since he was a big, clumsy kindergartner and I was a small, mouthy one. We used to hate each other when we were kids. But fate has a way of showing up when we least expect it.

I ran into Nate at the beach last summer, the day after my sister moved to Boston. I was feeling particularly raw, and Nate was being surprisingly charming. “Why would anyone leave San Diego?” he asked me. “Worst decision ever. Best way to get back at someone who leaves is to take advantage of everything the city has to offer.” And then we went to Carlsbad and walked through the flower fields, some-thing I’d never done before. It wasn’t cheesy like I thought it would be. It was nice.

And that’s when I knew he was on my side. Because really, why would anyone want to leave San Diego? Nate gets it. He gets me.

The knock on the bathroom door elicits another groan from Nate, sending a whiff of something pungent my way. I swallow hard, pushing back the gag reflex to avoid my own fiasco.

“We’re busy in here,” I yell.

I hear the snorts and giggles from the other side of the door.

“Um, not that kind of busy,” I rush to explain.

The last thing I need is for the rumor mill to make up some scandalous story about me and Nate in the bathroom at Jason Collins’s end-of-year party. Trust me, the smell in the air does not make me want any nooky, that’s for sure.

There’s another knock at the door. What, is this the only freaking bathroom in this house or something?

“Hannah? Is everything okay in there?”

Oh, thank god, a familiar voice. Maybe Shelly can call us an Uber and help me get Nate outside. But then again, she’s also kinda the biggest gossip in our friend group. I try not to tell her anything I wouldn’t want the entire school to know the next day, and I’m sure Nate wouldn’t want everyone talking about how he can’t hold his liquor. I don’t think he’d appreciate Shelly posting about it all over and seeing people write stuff like “Nate is a lightweight.” People can be merciless in the comments.

It’s fine. I can handle this. I can take care of Nate myself. Despite the current situation, I can’t help but smile. I like being the reliable girlfriend. I like being needed.

“We’re good, Shelly. Everything’s fine. Nothing interesting is happening in here. Thanks,” I call back. Hopefully she’ll find some other drama to report elsewhere.

“Okey dokey! I’ll be downstairs if you need me,” she says.

A moan comes from inside the bowl. I look down at the back of Nate’s head. “Oh, babe, are you gonna be okay? What can I get you?” I ask him.

“Hannah?” He turns his head slightly to put his cheek against the toilet seat. I try not to worry about all the germs now transferring to his beautiful face from the porcelain throne. Nate’s voice is weak, and his breath is rank. I suck in a breath and avoid breathing through my nose. I take the wet washcloth on the counter and wipe his neck, fascinated at the little blond hairs there. Sweat has darkened the rest of his head to a sandy blond, but those tiny neck hairs are almost white.

My heart softens at the sight for some reason. Even though he’s a big, strong guy, he’s got these small baby hairs. Cute.

“Hannah,” he calls to me again, drawing me back.

“Yes, Nate?” I reluctantly lean in closer over him.

“I…” He takes another breath, looking mildly unsure if he’s going to hurl again.

“Shhh. It’s okay, Nate. I know, babe, I know.”

“Hannah, we…”

We. Awww. “Yup, it’s you and me,” I say.

“I… I think we should break up,” he says, rolling his face back towards the inside of the toilet.

“No thank you,” I say.

Time stops. My entire body numbs except for the sinking in my stomach. This shaggy bathroom rug suddenly feels scratchy and rough on my knees, and the room is entirely too small. It’s a warm San Diego night, and a house full of mostly drunk kids isn’t making for the best air circulation. Still, I don’t think sweating this much is normal.

Don’t panic, I tell myself, closing my eyes to center my suddenly spinning world.

I replay his words in my head. We haven’t dated long enough for him to decide we need to break up. I heard it wrong.

We should wake up. Yes, time is ticking and we’ve gotta take life seriously.

We should prank up. Ha ha! Gotcha! Good one, Nate.

We should steak up? I mean, I love a good cut of beef. I’m down.

A large hand wraps around my wrist, drawing me out of my panic. But when I look into Nate’s red-rimmed eyes, notice his runny nose, and try hard not to stare at the suspicious chunk of something stuck to his cheek, my throat tightens.

It’s not love I see. It’s not even anger. It’s…pity.

“Nate, babe, you’re not thinking straight. You’re drunk and sick,” I reason with him, voice shaking.

“I’m sorry, Hannah. I’ve been trying to tell you all night.

But I didn’t want to hurt you,” Nate says, punctuating his platitudes with another moan reverberating back into the bowl.

“But…but you’re my person,” I say, the last word almost a whisper. My voice sounds pathetic and small.

“We can still be friends. It’s just not working between us,” he says. He sounds miserable. I want it to be because he feels bad for breaking my heart and not because he currently has his head in the toilet.

“What’s not working? I thought we were having fun. We’re here, at this party, um, having fun, right?”
I look down at Nate, who definitely does not look like he’s having fun.

“Hannah, we…we don’t have anything in common,” he says.

“What do you mean we have nothing in common? We have so much in common. We’re basically the same per-son.” I struggle to come up with the list, the list of all the things that we both enjoy. It’s a black hole right now in my brain, but I don’t work well under pressure.

“We really don’t. You don’t even like the things I’m…”

“We both like Riverdale,” I cut him off, finally thinking of an answer. See? I knew there was something.

“You hate it. You make fun of Archie every episode.” I let my shoulders fall at his words. He’s right. Busted.

“You hate tomatoes…”

That’s a deal-breaker when it comes to love?

“…and cats…”

This is true. But can’t we agree to disagree?

“…and you don’t know anything about K-pop or Korean dramas. I just can’t talk to you about the things I’m passionate about.”

K-pop? Korean dramas?

I let out my own groan. No, not Nate, too. Another person swept up into the sudden worldwide fascination with all things Korean. And of course, apparently, I’m the only person in the world that isn’t, even though I am… Korean.

“Nate, we can fix whatever you think isn’t working.”

“Hannah?” He turns his head to look at me again. Yes, good, he’s regretting his words already. I nod to myself and smile. We’ll be fine.

“Nate,” I say back assuredly.

His eyes widen in panic as he opens his mouth and throws up all over my sandals.


I tuck the phone into my neck so I can suck the chocolate off my forefinger and thumb. I ate the entire Toblerone, starting from the top, biting off exactly at the crease of each piece, holding the same spot at the bottom so that just enough chocolate would melt onto my fingertips for me to suck off at the very end. Strategic consumption for healing a broken heart.

“I couldn’t just get dumped in front of the lockers or in the parking lot of In-N-Out like everyone else. Nope, I have to have chunks of chicken nuggets swimming in sour beer vomited in between my toes. Great.” Shelly is quiet on the other end of the line. She’s probably gagging at the thought of it, too.

“Since when did not liking the same music become a reason to break up with someone?” I ask.

“Nate told Martin Shepherd who told Mandy Hawkins who told Jason Chen who told me that when he asked you who your bias was, you said you had a bias towards ‘justice, equality, and Sasha over Malia Obama.’”

“I didn’t realize Nate felt so strongly about Malia.”

“It’s a K-pop thing.” I can hear her eye roll through the phone. “Your ‘bias’ is your favorite person in the group.”

“Okay, but how does everyone know this but me?”

I reach for the bag of peanut M&M’S on my nightstand.

I ate all the other colors, and now only the green ones re-main. A feast of green M&M’S is my recipe for healing.

“Seriously, though,” she goes on, ignoring my question, “I can’t believe Nate dumped you right before summer. What are you gonna do now about all those plans you guys made? You can’t do them alone.”



The words slap me in the face so hard I can still feel the sting.

On Sale: 01/02/2023

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