Note: I was given a free copy of this book in return for my fair and honest review.
Miyoung is just your average teenage girl living in Seoul. She goes to school, does her homework, sucks the life energy from depraved men to sustain her immortal life. She really wishes she didn't have to do that last part, but as someone who is part-human, part-gumiho, if she doesn't consume gi at least once every 100 days, she'll die. It's a simple, if lonely existence. But when a demon attacks Miyoung during a routine hunt, and a local teenage boy interferes to help fend off the monster, life becomes a lot more complicated. In the chaos of the attack, Miyoung's fox bead, the part of her that maintains her gi, somehow is ejected from her body. She has to find a way to meld with it once more or the consequences could be fatal. And while all this is going on, Miyoung starts life at a new school, the same one that boy attends, and despite all her mother's warnings about the evils of humans, Miyoung realizes she just might be falling for him.
WICKED FOX is a contemporary YA tale that just happens to feature a supernatural character. In many ways, it's a "slice of life" romance, undoubtedly influenced by the Korean dramas the author loves. Miyoung navigates school, friendship, domestic drama, and love, while love interest Jihoon (who gets equal time as lead protagonist, the chapters flipping between their POVs) tries to bury feelings of abandonment through video games, helping his grandmother at the family restaurant, and courting this mysterious new girl he met in the woods. For the most part, you won't find flashy magic or intense battles, you'll find two broken teenagers struggling to understand family and friendship when important people in their lives keep leaving.
(Side Note: I was struggling to figure out how I felt about this book until I wrote that last line line. I had gone in expecting much more fantasy action and had to recalibrate my brain. This theme of family, love, and loss is the most important thing about this book and why it resonates.)
Whether or not the things that were a negative for me will likewise be a negative for you will depend on your tolerance for certain tropes. For instance, I bounce HARD off the trope of "parent keeps information from child for their protection/their own good," and that was a central plot point in WICKED FOX. Sometimes an author can make a compelling case for why said parent withheld information, but I didn't buy it by the end of the story. I also wish some of the more supernatural side characters had been fleshed out a little better.
At the end of the day, however, Miyoung and Jihoon's star-crossed romance was plenty to keep me reading, and compelling enough for me to overlook the few annoyances I had in the tropes. Add in a stunning reveal at the climax, and this became a YA book I will happily recommend to fans of the genre!