Fake dating, East Asia / Taiwanese characters and culture, romance, comedy, holidays, family, and mooncakes! Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao was one of my most anticipated books of fall 2020. I’m so happy it lived up to it! I’m super excited to share my thoughts on the book as part of the Hear Our Voices Book Tour!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.
Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.
Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.
When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.
But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 320 pages
Review + Recipe Video:
Since mooncakes are a bit of an inside joke for Chloe and Drew, I decided to assemble coconut, purple sweet potato mooncakes and pair them with a sweet potato latte while I discuss the book on Youtube. For friends who’d rather read a review, I also included a written version below.
I really loved Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao! I think in the past year I’ve started to outgrow “YA” since I graduated college and put more years in between me and the ages of typical YA main characters, so I really loved how Chloe is college-aged and Drew is two years older than her. It was fun to read from the dual perspective of Chloe and Drew, although it was more centered on Chloe. I thought it would be interesting at first to see how their relationship is written since we got both of their perspectives, but I think the author did really well in choosing which scenes were told from Chloe’s POV and which by Drew.
Something I loved about these characters were that they’re a lot more mature and reflective. While their relationship starts off uncertain with the fake dating aspect and does get built on lies, because of the fake dating aspect, between the two of them there’s more honesty and trust. It worked well to create a genuine relationship. I also really liked their independence as characters, how to a certain extent they can be themselves and make their own decisions. And I loved seeing them grow together and teach each other new things. They’re not perfect but they’re genuinely good people who are very thoughtful and considerate of others and their actions. To me, they felt more realistic, although I do wish we got a little more Drew. Chloe, I really loved. I think she was super charming as was the writing. It was a great balance of comedy, quirkiness, honesty, and there was just something about it that really resonated with me.
Plot-wise, I’d say the book centers mostly around family, the relationship between Chloe and her parents, especially her mom, which I loved! I think a lot of people will find it relatable. In the book, Chloe rents a boyfriend, Drew, to be her fake boyfriend over Thanksgiving to get rid of this horrendous family friend her parents are trying to get her to marry. While that part might not be so relatable, I think a lot of people will be able to see themselves in how much Chloe loves cares for her parents and wants to be the best daughter, but in doing so she has to decide how much she can sacrifice being her true and entire self. So it’s a story of family, but also a story of speaking up for yourself and standing up for who you are, which is something seen in both Chloe and Drew’s character arcs.
Being an own voices book and an own voices (Chinese) reader, I absolutely loved how natural the cultural aspects of the book were, from weaving in Chinese words to the food to how Asians use ovens as storage and reuse plastic containers. Since both Chloe and Drew share Taiwanese background, all of these things were so normalized in their lives. I also loved how the author made a point to show two different diaspora stories. Chloe and Drew are both Taiwanese but their backgrounds, community and family dynamics are different. I think it’s super important because there is so much diversity in Asia and depending on country of origin, family history, immigration, people in the diaspora can have very different experiences. I’m glad it was something we got to explore a little in this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this read! Thank you to Hear Our Voices for letting me participate in the tour and to Gloria Chao for the annotated copy of the book. If it sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to pick it up and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
With Love, Belinda 💕
About the Author!
Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fate, and the upcoming Rent a Boyfriend (Nov 10, 2020). When she’s not writing, you can find her with her husband on the curling ice or hiking the Indiana Dunes. After a brief detour as a dentist, she is now grateful to spend her days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths.
Find Rent a Boyfriend!
Geek Declassified – Fan Art + 15 Thoughts
Galaxy Boooooks Blog – Look Book + Video Review
Hsinju’s Lit Log – Travel with Chloe + 15 Thoughts While Reading
The Mind of a Book Dragon – Review in 5 GIFs + OwnVoices Reflection