The Boy You Always ­Wanted

HarperCollins/Katherine ­Tegen. Aug. 2023. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063038424.
Gr 7 Up–When Francine’s grandfather is diagnosed with cancer, he tells her mother that he regrets not having a male heir and wishes they had been rich enough to enact a traditional custom of doing an honorary adoption. While upset at the inherent sexism, Francine wishes to make her grandfather’s final months more peaceful and ropes her old crush and family friend, Oliver, into pretending to be his honorary male heir. Ollie has long avoided overly earnest Francine but agrees to her plan in exchange for help with his Multicultural Club project. As they spend time together, they grow closer, but their fledgling relationship may be threatened by family secrets that are also revealed. In this novel told in alternating perspectives, there is a lot of depth to Quach’s characters and relationships with their families, exploring issues of traditions, duty to family, and how history reverberates through generations (their Chinese-Vietnamese families knew each other before immigrating to the United States). The balance of the heavier issues with Francine and Ollie’s humorous antics and fun burgeoning romance works well, although the ending is a bit rushed and tidy.
VERDICT A rom-com with a lot of heart and surprising depth, this is recommended for most collections.

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