Published: August 31 2021
Format: eBook (ARC)
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Neurodivergent, Mental Illness/Health
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
Keywords to describe this book: Engrossing, Steamy, Multiple POV
TW: Self-harm, suicidal thoughts
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I devoured this book. In my opinion, this is Hoang’s best work. Not only does the book tackle mental illness/health in the most real and relatable way, but it also exudes such love and tenderness in the characters. Hoang includes an author’s note at the back of the book explaining that this is her most autobiographical book to date and it really shows. Anna is such a well-written character that she jumps off the page. You feel her pain so acutely that you will not be able to stop yourself from getting emotional (I was very emotional while reading this book). I love the relationship that Hoang builds between her and Quan. Both are “broken” people, but in their brokenness, they find kinship and acceptance.
I love Hoang’s dedication to writing neurodiverse characters. With each successive book she grows stronger in her writing and this book really shows in how real the characters are. I learned so much about the autism spectrum from seeing things from Anna’s perspective. This book delves deeply into the pain and harm that can come of ignorance of neurodivergence. Anna has to deal with masking, with family members not believing her when she opens up about her mental differences, and with suicidal thoughts because she goes through some very bad, dark days. Though this book is a romance book, it very much is a dedicated portrayal of struggling with mental illness. Therapy plays a big role in this book and I really appreciate how Hoang drives home the point that love cannot solve mental health issues, it is merely one way to support those we care about.
Now, let’s talk romance. This book, as with Hoang’s other books, is quite steamy! The chemistry between Anna and Quan is so strong. They are both so adorable and their relationship, which blooms over a mutual love of documentaries (particularly one about an octopus!), is such a joy to see develop. I believe in them so hard! I know many readers have been asking for a Quan-centric story for a while and while he was never a character I was dying to see fleshed out more, I really enjoyed reading his portions of the book. Through him we get a different struggle (a physical “deformity”) and Hoang does an excellent job of portraying very real, masculine fears about looking different. I could tell she’d done her research to make sure she did Quan justice. Because both Anna and Quan have their own hang-ups, they end up really complementing each other and it’s really fun to see how much the grow to love and support each other.
Overall, I have to say that this book was almost a one-sitting read for me. I know I don’t normally a) have the time for that or b) have the mental focus to do it even if I did have the time, but this book engrossed me so much that I wanted to keep reading even when I did have to put the book down for one reason or another. I was always eager to pick it back up again and I finished it within a few days. I love it very much and I highly recommend it simply for the fact that if you love Hoang’s other books, this one is really her best and you’ll love it, but also because it’s such a real, honest portrait of the autism spectrum.
| My Rating |
My New Favorite Thing
I love this book. It was a joy to read and I know I’ll be re-reading it (probably more than once). I love the characters, the story is beautiful, and I think it’s a strong representation of mental illness/health. This is definitely Hoang’s best book yet. I can’t believe I love it more than Kiss Quotient! I’m definitely going to be recommending this book a lot. It’s funny, yet poignant, it has the drama you want from a romance, but it’s also just really sweet and lovely. The writing is just so good. Honestly, even if you don’t like romance, this book is worth reading simply for the autism and therapy representation.
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