RENT A BOYFRIEND by GLORIA CHAO
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I’m no stranger to Gloria Chao’s work. I’ve read all of her books, from American Panda to Our Wayward Fate. Rent a Boyfriend is her third effort, and I knew when I saw the listing on Goodreads, I had to read it. Rent a Boyfriend follows 19-year-old Chloe (or Jing-Jing, as her parents call her) as she literally rents a boyfriend to take home to her parents’ house for the holidays. Via the fictional Rent for you ‘Rents app, Chloe meets Drew, or Andrew as he’s known on the job. What starts as a fake relationship quickly blossoms into a real one, with all the twists and turns true love has to offer.
And…Well, that’s about it for the plot. This being a rom-com, the plot isn’t exactly intricate, but as I read Rent a Boyfriend, I found myself not caring. Chloe and Drew are both POV characters, and while they’re a bit same-y in terms of voice, it was fun to read both of their perspectives on what was going on. The fake dating trope is also present throughout the book, though it sort of fades out about halfway through, which was disappointing to my fake-dating-loving self. Nevertheless, I was having so much fun, I didn’t care.
While dating is a huge part of Rent a Boyfriend, the true heart of the book is in Chloe’s relationship with her parents. While I’m not Taiwanese or the child of immigrants, I felt very moved by how complicated Chloe’s relationships with her parents were. They’re not perfect and Chao doesn’t try to make them that way. She also doesn’t try to make them entirely despicable, either, and I found the combination to be very refreshing. Chinese culture, especially food, is very present throughout the book. I loved learning little bits of Chloe’s culture and how it influences her decisions. I especially loved all the descriptions of the delicious food Chloe eats.
I realize that I keep forgetting to mention Drew, Chloe’s love interest. Drew is a fine character. He’s not great but he’s not bad, either. He’s not exactly three-dimensional. HE’s a nice, supportive guy who wants to be an artist and got ostracized from his family for it. That’s about all there is to his personality. Compelling? Maybe not. Light and fun to read? Sure.
As a side note before I end this review: Rent a Boyfriend is truly the perfect book to read for the holiday season. It spans the length of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. There are plenty of festivities to be had, making this the perfect, cozy read for when it’s too cold to go outside.
You can pick up our copy of Rent a Boyfriend at the Argenta Library today!