Book Review

Rent A Boyfriend

Rent a Boyfriend

  • Author: Gloria Chao
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: November 10, 2020
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

CONTENT WARNING: mention of cancer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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 operative 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 Hong, the wealthiest (and douchiest) 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?

A few of my friends had raved about this book, so I picked it up from the library and figured that Lunar New Year was the perfect time to start reading it. And once I started, I discovered exactly why my friends loved it as much as they did, because I fell in love with the story too.

While the story addresses difficult family dynamics and some serious subject matter, it was also really, really funny. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this story. I couldn’t help but adore both Chloe and Drew’s characters. 

Both Chloe and Drew are prime examples of people who have complicated relationships with their families. Each of them have their own goals which don’t align with the traditional values that their families hold. For Chloe, she doesn’t want to marry the man her parents want her to, and her parents also don’t fully respect the educational focus that she has taken in college. When she tries to explain her decisions to her parents, they just speak over her. And seriously? Hongo really IS a douche! He kept getting worse throughout the whole book, even when I thought he couldn’t possibly get worse.

“..my no should have been enough. But it never was, not with my parents. When I’d tried to show them Hong’s true puke-green colors, they had tsked and slapped me on the wrist for not recognizing how ol’ Dreamboat was so dutiful to his parents her was willing to propose to their top choice regardless of his feelings, as if his motivations were driven by filial piety and honor, not access to his parents’ bank accounts.”

And for Drew, his relationship with his family has completely degraded after dropping out of college to focus on being an artist. However, that has left its scars on him. While he hasn’t stopped making art, the criticism has affected his confidence.

“Art flowed through me, compelling me to create, but so far my creations were only for my eyes. Even after all this time, I hadn’t been able to share my paintings with anyone …”

I found it fitting that Chloe has 2 names — she’s Chloe in the outside world, but Jing-Jing at home. It’s especially appropriate since she has 2 different personas to match the names, because she is completely different in those settings. 

“Were we all pretending, putting on a better face to fool everyone around us, even our family? I guess I’d been doing that my whole life, with Jing-Jing. Did anyone else go by two names and feel like that separated who they were?”

I loved learning more about how Chloe’s family expressed their culture. It was made clear in the story that Chinese culture isn’t a monolith, and that Chinese-American families hold to cultural traditions differently. Although the setting this happened in was a little humorous, it explained the situation perfectly:

“Rent for Your ‘Rents did a shit ton of research, but there were so many nuances in each diaspora family’s interpretation of culture that these kerfuffles did happen every so often.”

I loved the way the romance developed slowly between the characters. It felt realistic and genuine, and I just wanted to see Chloe and Drew live happily ever after. This was one I’m glad I didn’t pass up, and I will be shouting about this one to anyone who will listen. So check it out!

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