Boys I Know

- Anna Gracia

Goodreads Book Blurb:

June Chu is the “just good enough” girl. Good enough to line the shelves with a slew of third-place trophies and steal secret kisses from her AP Bio partner, Rhys. But not good enough to meet literally any of her Taiwanese mother’s unrelenting expectations or to get Rhys to commit to anything beyond a well-timed joke.

While June’s mother insists she follow in her (perfect) sister’s footsteps and get a (full-ride) violin scholarship to Northwestern (to study pre-med), June doesn’t see the point in trying too hard if she’s destined to fall short anyway. Instead, she focuses her efforts on making her relationship with Rhys “official.” But after her methodically-planned, tipsily-executed scheme explodes on the level of a nuclear disaster, she flings herself into a new relationship with a guy who’s not allergic to the word “girlfriend.”

But as the line between sex and love blurs, and pressure to map out her entire future threatens to burst, June will have to decide on whose terms she’s going to live her life—even if it means fraying her relationship with her mother beyond repair.


My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Peachtree Teen for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

I wanted to like Boys I Know more.

Good enough test scores to get the A but not the A-plus. Good enough skill to get a trophy, but not first place. Good enough to be someone's girlfriend, but not their first choice of company. Just Good Enough™.

June is refreshingly honest about her inner monologue; there’s no stone left unturned here. But as much as I love YA, this was a little too YA: it read like a teenager’s diary with no editor. Multiple paragraphs explain a feeling that could be expressed in a few sentences. I know the author has a very personal connection to the ‘moral’ of the story, but it’s like she doubled down hard to get her point across and instead, it got lost in the words.

The main takeaway here is the imperfect relationships.
‣ June’s friends Liz and Candace are good friends. Not great and not terrible, at times they feel very superficial – not really checking in or sharing a lot – and then other times they’re just straight up mean to each other – blunt and rude to their face or laughing them into uncomfortable situations in front of other people. Why does June have to explain to others why things are racist? Why is no one telling a teenager she shouldn’t be dating her 23-year-old boss? Why is no one there to support June -in a girlfriend feminist independent way – and help her find herself outside of a relationship?
‣Obviously, mother-daughter relationships are complicated. They get even more complex when you add in cultural expectations and immigrant families. Still, her mum is legit on her case 24/7 about school, the violin, and what she’s wearing, but has a serious blind spot about how much time she spends away from home ‘with friends’. Also, where the eff is her dad?! Yeah, he works a lot, but I don’t think he said a word the entire book – a few looks here and there, maybe a shrug? Totally absent.
‣And then there’s Wendy: the perfect big sister who knows exactly how to bully June into feeling less than and self-conscious. And you know it would have been so tough to be perfect all the time and to take the heat as the eldest sibling in that household, but you’d hope that moving away for uni would’ve softened or mellowed her a little.
This is all without going into the ‘boys June knows‘ – but you knew going into it that these relationships would be imperfect. All these bonus ones show the actual reality of being a teenager.

Yes, Boys I Know is heartfelt and addresses the feelings of being overlooked or misunderstood. Of just wanting to belong somewhere or to be wanted. Unfortunately, the message gets a little lost, leaving it feeling unfinished. June’s awareness of her cultural identity (or lack thereof) is questioned when she goes to Washington but seems to be quickly forgotten for another storyline. Her quickly aborted first crush/relationship is touched on a few times but is left feeling incomplete – the exact opposite of how I think it was meant to feel in the end. There’s a weird tangent with plan b being addressed as a form of abortion that felt judgmental and strange that I still don’t quite understand. Overall, it’s all a little too messy for a cohesive story, so while I enjoyed it and found it easy to read, I don’t think it made the impression it could have with further editing. And yes, I acknowledge the irony of calling for more editing within a long, rambling review.

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