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?
Check out my review on GoodReads over here!
This cover. That blurb. The Author’s Note. Everything about this book captivated me, so it was no wonder I jumped on the chance to read it! We have Chao’s trademark easygoing humor from the first person perspectives of Chloe and Drew, two Taiwanese-American young adults that find love through a convoluted situation. With a flair of dramatism reminiscent of Taiwanese dramas and the genuine, sweet romance of youth, RENT A BOYFRIEND turned out to be a delight.
We start the book with Drew first meeting Chloe at her parents’ place for Thanksgiving, where she rented him to act as her fake date! The ultimate goal was to make her parents cut off a betrothal to another Taiwanese boy in her community, who was pretty chauvinistic and unlikable. You can’t help but see sparks fly, and them wanting to text each other even after the ‘assignment’ was over. Drew and Chloe fall very easily into a smooth dialogue with shared interests and struggles.
[Drew] My mission (should I choose to take it, which, yes, I obviously did) was to win over the Wangs and make them feel secure enough in Jing-Jing’s and my loving relationship to turn down the heir of No One Systems.
I always appreciate Chao’s stories because they feature characters that start college, and that’s the point of life where I’m at. Chloe just started studying economics at the University of Chicago, while Drew is a college drop-out who is estranged with his family because of his passion for art. Although they come from different backgrounds, they commiserate over the high expectations and pressures of Asian-American parents and the psychological trauma that they can create. My heart really went out for the couple, and it made the small joys they found in their situations even more sweet to see.
[Chloe] Why did it take this actor to improve our family dynamic, and was it even real given that he wasn’t? Were we all pretending, putting on a better face to fool everyone around us, even our family?
There were some things that hit really close to home when it came to Chloe’s familial dynamics, while other aspects tended to be over-the-top (like I said in the beginning, reminiscent of a Taiwanese drama). I think this is a pretty unique aspect of Chao’s writing that keeps the book light-hearted despite serious undertones. One thing that got to me was Chloe’s mother’s heavy misogyny, the co-dependence of the Asian community, and silence destroying relationships. The Asian community aspect was explored with heavy gossiping, people trying to one-up each other by bragging about their kids, and even bible studies as a social group (this relates heavily back to my own mother). At the same time, we see small actions of support with one another despite it all. A lot of Chloe’s familial problems stem from silence and the unwillingness to communicate, which is big, at least, in my own family. It was sad to see Chloe temper down her personality to fit into the mold that her parents wanted her to be. At the same time, I couldn’t blame her – what child of an immigrant wouldn’t want their parents to be happy, after all they went through?
Anyhow, Drew is able to see past Chloe’s facade and they begin a fragile, but super genuine relationship where they support and encourage the other in taking steps towards accepting themselves and their passions. The romance is the light-hearted part, full of laughs and secret smiles and fun puns, while the familial aspect weighed the book down. Usually I really appreciate those aspects, but the continuous deception in this book, despite Chloe wanting to come clean, made my heart a bit heavy while reading. Chloe even acknowledges that she built a house of lies, but it went on a bit too long for my comfort. If this was the case, I expect more for the denouement and resolution!
Either way, RENT A BOYFRIEND was another fantastic read from Gloria Chao. If you’ve enjoyed her previous books, definitely give this one a try! Chao’s writing is so sweet and sprinkled with Mandarin phrases and traditions, such as Chinese New Year, that highlight the best of Chloe and Drew’s culture, while still exploring the darker elements. Although I’m not as in love with this book as her previous books, RENT A BOYFRIEND is still a lovely Young Adult contemporary with slice of life aspects that’ll tug your hearts.
fatphobia, heavy misogynistic dialogue, classism/elitism, parent with cancer
Thank you Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the review copy!
Do you like the fake dating trope? Can you imagine bringing home a fake significant other to your parents? Let me know your thoughts!