Rent a Boyfriend
by Gloria Chao
After seeing the cover you’re probably wondering, was this book a cover buy? 1000%. But the cover also got me to pick up the book and read the synopsis, which is honestly what sealed the deal and ensured this book was coming home with me.
Rent A Boyfriend takes a look into the Chinese American slice of life. Our protagonist Chloe has been ruthlessly pursued by the man of her parents dreams. His family is wealthy and at the top of their local community’s food chain, but their son is an absolute scumbag (trust me, I’m being polite here). Determined to get her parents to set their sights on a new prospect, Chloe turns to an online dating app where you can rent a boyfriend for specific occasions.
I don’t know exactly how I managed this, as it always seems to happen and I simply attribute it to the magic of books, but I picked this up in December and finished it just after New Years. Ironically, this book takes place from Thanksgiving to New Years, and every time I sat down to read the timeline in the book and in my life seemed to align perfectly.
The chemistry between Chloe and her boyfriend-for-hire Drew is undeniable (I was living for their banter and text exchanges). I think the twist of their romance was who ended up falling for who (and that’s all I’m willing to say without giving away any spoilers). While I was ready to cozy up with this holiday romance, this book had more important things to tell me, and it honestly made me a bit uncomfortable at times.
This book made me reexamine my relationship with my family, and, to put it mildly, it’s rocky at best. I connected to Drew and to Chloe in a way that only people with strained familial relationships can. However, the added element of traditional Chinese parenting styles, expectations, and customs is where my ability to relate came to its end (seeing as I’m a white American).
This book does not shy away from the hardships of imigration, generational gaps in cultural assimilation, and the strain families are under to conform or fight for their traditions. This book was heartbreaking at times, and hard to read at others. But this book was also about hope, and building your own future.
The way Chloe and Drew were able to use each other to grow deeper into who they are meant to be was like watching a flower that had just found sunlight begin to bloom. This novel is so much more than a fake dating to lovers trope. While I can’t speak on the validity of the immigrant experience, or the Asian American representation, I can say that this book was eye opening for me in so many ways. I hope more people give this one a chance.