Woah I have a lot of feelings about this book. I really appreciate Helen Hoang writing books with autistic protagonists that all experience it in a different way. This book is very intense, with an awful lot of pain for the protagonists to get through. It is not an easy read, but I found myself drawn into the story and caring so much about Anna and Quan, and their individual journeys.
Star rating: 4 stars
Anna Sun got internet famous after she steps in for a famous violin player and completes a beautiful solo. But the pressure that comes with fame and catching the attention of composers made playing music a million times more difficult for her. She’s stuck playing the same song on repeat, starting from the beginning every time she makes a mistake, tortured by the desire to perfect it. Anna has been going to therapy, and between her therapist and herself they realise she is autistic, not that her family are supportive of the revelation. When Anna’s boyfriend suggests they have an open relationship, Anna is upset but decides to have one night stands, because if Julian can, why can’t she?
Enter Quan, the brother of Khai and cousin of Michael from Helen’s other books. Recovering from cancer hasn’t been easy for him psychologically, but he’s ready to get back out there in the dating game. Anna catches his attention on a dating app and the two hit it off with their love of nature documentaries. But both are anxious about sexual intimacy with each other, so their one night stand desires take a few hits.
I loved that Helen brought in the modern terminology with respect to autism – I was worried at the beginning that she would be using outdated terms for the whole book. Anna defies the stereotypes perpetuated by the likes of characters like Sheldon Cooper. Apart from music, the other big challenge for Anna is when her father becomes seriously ill and she has to help her mother and sister take care of him. Understandably, this has an extreme impact on Anna’s mental health and her family, particularly her older sister, only exacerbate the problems she’s facing by not understanding and pushing Anna too far. Julian also brought out a lot of anger in me. He’d been using Anna for so long because she was so attentive to his needs and he knows she would do anything for him. I loved that Quan could show her what a positive relationship could look like, and they both learned intimacy and to trust again.
Overall this was an amazing book that tackles a lot of serious issues. I did feel like the ending was a little rushed through a series of flash forwards, but get that the book was probably long enough already! I loved Anna and Quan together. A neat end to this trilogy of romance novels, but it definitely isn’t one to read if you want a fluffy love story.