Midweek Mini Reviews #32

This month’s mini reviews features two new contemporary YA fall titles!

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
To be honest, if I ever found myself in a similar situation to Chloe (Jing-Jing) Wang, I would absolutely take advantage of the Rent for Your ’Rents services and hire a fake boyfriend. While I’ve never had my parents, try to marry me off to an awful playboy and bully just because his family is crazy rich, there were definitely several elements about Chloe’s story that resonated with me. For instance, I am well acquainted with the type of parental emotional manipulation and guilt trips that her mother makes use of. Also Chloe’s struggles with trying to balance her true self with what’s expected of her is something I’m sure countless children of Asian immigrants could relate to at some point, especially when they were or are university/college students. Rent a Boyfriend is Gloria Chao’s third YA novel, and it shows. Compared to her previous books, it is much more focused in terms of story and characters choosing to focus mainly on Chloe and her parents while showing us bits of Drew’s life. It would have been nice to get to know Drew more outside of him and Chloe, but this book was more of Chloe’s story. I did however love that this book had an epilogue as we get to see how Chloe moves forward with embracing both her “Chinese” and “American” sides and using her experiences to help others like her. I also appreciated how the dysfunction in both hers and Drew’s families hasn’t magically vanished, instead Chloe has gotten better at setting boundaries with her parents while Drew has made small steps with his family. Overall, while the romance definitely veered towards cheesy and over the top I enjoyed how this book showed us some complexities of parent-child relationships and how the community you grew up in affects your beliefs and who you become.

Not Your #Lovestory by Sonia Hartl
I’ve never understood why people think they can just document other people’s interactions without their permission just because they have a phone, a social media account and they think it’s an adorable story. That’s why I’m wary whenever I come across an online viral story as I’ve seen instances of innocent people’s lives being completely ruined as a result of a situation getting blown out of proportion. Not Your #Lovestory wasn’t the first book I’ve read about the downsides to going viral, however it is my first YA novel about this phenomenon. Seeing an ordinary teenager get doxxed and trolled by strangers who thought they had a say in her life was even more heartbreaking, especially since Macy was someone vulnerable to being exploited as she so desperately wanted to escape her small town. I hated what Eric and Jessica did to her, which is why it was so satisfying when Macy took back her life from the Internet and these strangers who wanted to use her for their own fame and gain. I also loved that this book was sex positive like Sonia Hartl’s last book, and I absolutely adore Macy’s family of strong and tough women who didn’t bend for anyone except for each other. The only thing that fell flat for me was the romance, because unlike the romance in Have a Little Faith in Me Paxton and Macy’s love story felt like it was lacking the build up needed to buy into their romance. This is unfortunate as I love the friends to lovers trope and wanted to love Macy and Paxton as a couple. In this end, this was just a lukewarm read for me. I liked how the book examines not only how far people will go to make it but also makes you question if you have a public platform just how much of yourself you’re willing to give for public consumption and if it’s truly worth it.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #25

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features a couple of new two very different YA titles!

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

High school guys can be jerks sometimes. That’s what CeCe in Sonia Hartl’s Have a Little Faith in Me learns when her boyfriend, Ethan, jumps her soon after the two sleep together for the first time. As someone who is not religious I found CeCe’s experience as an “outsider” at a Christian summer camp for teenagers to be interesting. I also appreciate how the story doesn’t waste too much time on CeCe’s original reason for going to the camp which was to try to win back her ex. Instead we get to see her bond with the other girls in her cabin with whom she never thought she’d have anything in common with. I loved the girls of Cabin 8 and seeing how CeCe helps to bring them out of their shell while the girls help CeCe get over her judginess when it comes to others. It was also refreshing to have a YA novel openly call out hypocrites in religion and I liked the way the topic of consent, and how religion deals with sexuality was approached. Finally even though it’s the way the story was set up, I was still rooting for Paul and CeCe because their friendship was heartwarming and the two of them are adorable with the “stories” they tell each other. If you enjoyed Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us and/or Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn then this book is for you.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | American Panda by Gloria Chao

Authour:
Gloria Chao
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
February 6th 2018
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m truly enjoying the rise in diverse YA fiction voices. This is coming from a girl who grew up with little exposure to stories starring Asian characters. I remember getting excited when on the rare occasion a required reading in class was a short story by an Asian writer with Asian characters that I could relate to. American Panda is the latest addition to the own voices, narrative trend which I hope is here to stay.

While I went into American Panda under the false assumption that it would be a light, rom-com similar to Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, so I was a bit caught off guard by the serious nature of the book especially in the beginning. Yes, there are a few moments of adorableness between Mei and her love interest, Darren Takahashi, however this comes later in the novel and is far from being the central focus. Instead, American Panda is about complicated parent-child dynamics, and the struggle to be true to yourself and your passions.

I can definitely relate to Mei’s pressure to not let her parents down while trying to stay true to what makes her happy. My own immigrant parents never pressured me or my siblings to be doctors, however they have made it clear that they want us to have a stable life without the hardships that they faced. And that’s what I loved the most about American Panda, it realistically showcases one example of how traditional Asian families act. Sure, my parents would never even threaten to disown any of us, however they do gossip and compare us to other kids while giving us backhand comments as a way to show that they care. I also found it refreshing how the family issues were not glossed over. By the novel’s conclusion the family conflicts are not all resolved in a neat and tidy way (as is the case in real life), instead progress is gradually being made from both sides. After all, people can’t just change on a whim, it takes time and considerable work in order to reach an understanding.

What’s nice about the rise in own voices trend is we are getting stories, especially geared towards a YA audience that we haven’t gotten before, I do not think I’ve ever read a story similar to American Panda and while I can’t relate to all of Mei’s experiences I know people who have had similar experiences. Furthermore, as a child of Asian immigrants, growing up as a minority among Caucasians who had younger parents with laissez-faire parenting styles, it was difficult for me to explain to others how I did not have the same freedom that was afforded to them. While it was fine for them to rebel and do as they pleased, similar to Mei in the book, growing up I couldn’t just do as I please without the massive guilt trips. Heartbreaking yet heartwarming, lovely, and well written American Panda is a perfect read to inspire and encourage Asian teens by showing them that there isn’t just one path that they must follow in life.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.