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?
I love Gloria Chao books. I fell in love with American Panda, and while I might not have loved Our Wayward Fate as much, I still enjoyed it. When I found out that she would be writing a fake dating book, a book where the main character hires a fake boyfriend no less, I was incredibly eager to read it! I even share a name with the main character!
I will be adding this to the list of “Gloria Chao Books That I Really Really Love”. It was cute and adorable, and full of her signature humor. But it was also painful and starkly real.
I really, really loved Chloe’s character and her journey. She rents a boyfriend because of conflict with her parents. She doesn’t feel like she’s enough. She doesn’t feel like she can be comfortable in her own skin because of the things her parents tell her and the things her parents expect from her. It was heartwrenching to read. It was painful, but in the best way. It felt real. I feels weird to describe pain as something good or something to talk about positively. But, it shows just how fantastic a writer and a storyteller Chao is. She knows how to write cute and adorable. Though she also knows how to write painful and heartbreaking.
Though, I loved how Chloe tried her very best to stay true to herself throughout. Sometimes that meant making her parents happy and sometimes that meant trying to put herself first. She’s discovering how strong she is and how she can handle herself.
I also really liked Drew! And I loved how he had his own POV. He also has familial struggles, though they’re different from Chloe’s. He dropped out of college to pursue art. It was so, so great to see a YA book portray collage as not the be all to end all. Collage wasn’t the right path for Drew and that’s fine. He struggles with his decision, but I really loved seeing how he dealt with the belief that a higher education is needed and how he tried to come to terms with his own decisions. He was also just a really solid guy all around. He and Chloe compliment each other so well. Chloe knows when Drew need help and Drew knows when Chloe can handle a situation on her own. They worked really well together.
The writing in this book seemed a bit different than Chao’s last two books. It didn’t seem as flowy and fly throughable as American Panda or Our Wayward Fate. That doesn’t mean it was bad though! The writing was still good, filled with amazing jokes and lines that had me pause to think deeper.
One thing I loved most about this book was the text messages. I know that seems like a weird, small thing to be so caught up on, but they really were that good. They were that good because they felt so authentic. It felt like a 19 year old and a 21 year old texting. When I got to the first batch, I was honestly floored at how real they sounded! I love, love, love when something feels so authentic to teenagers and these texts were exactly that.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable read. I loved the whole renting of a boyfriend, I loved Chloe standing up for herself, I loved Drew’s belief in her, I loved the sheep, I loved the art, I loved how it was heart wrenching and adorable at the same time. Really, if you love Gloria Chao books, or are even thinking of picking one up, Rent A Boyfriend is fantastic.