For women learning about themselves (especially romantically/sexually), for a story about a young woman figuring out what she wants and how to go after it
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.
Although this story is titled “Boys I Know,” June is not defined by men (or, well, boys). I love that she forges her own identity throughout her various attempts at love and sex, despite feeling swept away and overwhelmed by life at times.
One review quote on this book was along the lines of “I wish I had this book when I was the character’s age.” And yo, I feel that. 17-23 probably would have been a REALLY helpful time to read this book. I have never read a fiction novel that talks so honestly about sex and trying to figure out what feels good and how to get it (and enjoy it). It’s explicit in that it describes sex bluntly with none of that demure fade-to-black implication in some young adult novels. This book genuinely treats the reader as a young ADULT and the depictions of sex match that. It’s not raunchy and dramatic, but it’s open and genuine.
Alright, despite what the first paragraphs here might seem to imply, there is more than just sex in this book. June’s trying to figure out what to do once she graduates high school. College? Not? If college, where? It’s a pretty common theme in young adult novels, and not one that’s missed in this one. As she tours around her options, she debates whether she wants to meet new people and go out on a limb, or stay with those closest to her and continue as she’s always expected. A classic debate.
Her relationships are a huge part of this book. With friends, family, potential lovers, ex lovers, hopeful lovers… ahem. They’re all important, and while June is shaped by the people she knows and meets, she takes initiative on her own to decide what she wants.
Overall I was pretty impressed with the honesty of this book, and feel like it’s a great thing to exist for young women in particular.
Thanks to NetGalley and Peachtree Teen for a free copy. This is my honest review.