Review by Tatiana Miranda
Anna Cathcart first made her appearance as Kitty Covey, the protagonist’s younger, scheming sister, in the 2018 Netflix original To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which is inspired by Jenny Han’s YA novel of the same name. Since then, Jenny Han's work has inspired two more To All the Boys movies and the Amazon Prime Video series The Summer I Turned Pretty. Now she returns with XO, Kitty, a spin-off of To All the Boys that focuses on Kitty as she attends a prestigious boarding school in Korea. While To All the Boys is more of a rom-com and The Summer I Turned Pretty is more teen drama and romance, XO, Kitty takes inspiration from its setting and watches more like a stereotypical K-drama, complete with shocking plot twists and all.
Kitty, now seventeen and entering her junior year of high school, decides to attend KISS, a boarding school located in Seoul that her mom attended in the 90's. KISS also just so happens to be where Kitty’s long-term, long-distance boyfriend Dae goes to school. In an attempt to learn more about her late mother and surprise her boyfriend, Kitty arrives in Korea unaware of all the drama yet to unfold.
Much like her younger self in To All the Boys, Kitty sees herself as a matchmaker, yet she has problems figuring out her own love life. Her romance with Dae began in To All the Boys: Always and Forever, when her family took a trip to Korea to reconnect with their culture. In XO, Kitty, she plans to see him for the first time since then, now that they have been dating for about four years. When trying to surprise him of her arrival at KISS, she is caught off-guard by a dramatic change in their relationship brought on by classmate and principal’s daughter, Yuri.
While some of the tropes may feel similar to To All the Boys and The Summer I Turned Pretty, such as fake relationships and love triangles, XO, Kitty is wholly different in terms of its tone. Although some of the drama revolves around Kitty’s love life, the majority of it centers around Kitty’s discovery of her mom’s experiences at KISS. From secret romances to teenage pregnancies, XO, Kitty feels more like a K-drama than your average Netflix teen series.
XO, Kitty’s K-drama inspiration and representation of Korean culture is well-done, especially considering the recent critiques of Jenny Han’s tendency to give her characters predominantly non-Asian love interests. Past the overabundance of petty teenage drama, XO, Kitty is a unique look at the experiences of a half-White Asian-American as she tries to learn more about her deceased mother and her culture. It is also a subtle critique on how many non-Western cultures perceive the LGBT community, especially how it is treated generationally in Korea.
XO, Kitty is by no means a perfect series, as it seems to overdo it with the dramatic elements, often giving viewers whiplash as multiple relationships move from enemies to crushes then back to enemies again. Still, its characters are intensely likable and the series is full of equally comedic and heartwarming moments. With the final episode’s cliffhanger, one can hope that Netflix will renew the series for a second season.
XO, Kitty releases on Netflix on May 18. All ten episodes reviewed.