Taiwanese American high schooler June Chu, a Midwesterner, searches for love and autonomy in Gracia’s emotionally raw debut. June just wants to be “good enough” for her mother—who is never short on Chinese proverbs and constantly compares June to her valedictorian older sister. But third-place wins at violin competitions won’t get her into a top-ranked school (“They going to be looking for first-place winner, not third,” June’s mother reminds her). Even worse, her lab-partner/maybe-boyfriend, Rhys, refuses to kiss her in public and keeps her at arm’s length. Eager to live a life separate from everyone else’s expectations, June institutes “Mission: Boyfriend” and pursues Brad, the first boy to ever openly adore her. June’s quest for autonomy forces her to reevaluate her relationships with her family and confront the fear that she may never be enough. Gracia employs a whirlwind pace that complements June’s myriad triumphs and failures; a large, vibrant cast; and a true-to-life teen voice to explore societal gender roles, racism, and sexuality while artfully depicting one teenager’s search for herself amid cultural and familial pressures. Supporting characters are predominantly white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kiana Nguyen, Donald Maass Literary. (July)
"[A] complex coming-of-age story about identity and sexuality."—The New York Times
★ "Gracia employs a whirlwind pace that complements June's myriad triumphs and failures; a large, vibrant cast; and a true-to-life teen voice to explore societal gender roles, racism, and sexuality while artfully depicting one teenager's search for herself amid cultural and familial pressures."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
★ "The panoply of supporting characters in this story that explores sexuality, gender roles, and relationships is finely drawn, and June is a winning protagonist with a lively, appealing voice that renders the repartee between her and her flinty, anxious mother simultaneously infuriating, hilarious, and poignant. A fresh tale about a teen’s struggles to define herself."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
★ "[A] refreshingly sex-positive coming-of-age YA novel. . . . June's cultural backdrop is poignantly prominent. . . . Microaggressions and other characters' questioning of Asian Americans' authenticity are also tactfully incorporated. Throughout, June's drive to choose a college for herselfnot for a boy or her parentsserves as an accessible framework around which this bold debut takes place, and touts the difficulty and importance of self-reflection."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
"This novel is sure to resonate with teens who haven’t yet found their calling and who are trying to figure out who they are. . . . A good and relevant purchase for all high school collections."—School Library Journal
"In a believable, immersive teen voice, June narrates her complicated feelings about representation and visibility as well as independence and coming of age. . . . Most notably, Gracia’s sophisticated rendering of June’s sexual experiences normalizes sexually active and thoughtful teens, and models behavior that prioritizes consent, choice . . . , and self- care."—The Horn Book
"There are many paths in life to take, whether it’s the boys you date or the college you choose — and everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s best for June Chu, but she has yet to decide what she thinks is best for herself. Boys I Know is Judy Blume’s Forever for the modern age." —Andrew King, Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, WA
"Fresh, funny, and fearless—a knockout novel about finding the courage to declare your place in the world." –Sarah Kuhn, From Little Tokyo, with Love
"An honest, humorous story full of candor that explores the pressures of growing up Asian American, teen identity and sexuality, and finding room to forge your own path when you have no life roadmap. Gracia doesn’t shy away from the awkwardness, messiness and confusion of adolescence—perfect for fans of Sonia Hartl and David Yoon." –Suzanne Park, Sunny Song Will Never be Famous
"Funny, sex-positive, and poignant. Boys I Know is an honest coming of age story about identity, sexuality, and the often-complicated parts of growing up and finding yourself. A touching exploration of the way teens navigate different relationships in their lives, and what it really means to not settle." –Sonia Hartl, The Lost Girls
Gr 10 Up—Boys, college, identity, friendships, and a lot of drama are keeping this senior busy. June Chu is Taiwanese American, a rarity in her small, predominantly white Iowa town. Dealing with micro- and macro-aggressions is a part of her daily life. She rests comfortably knowing she's smart but not the smartest, has an "almost" boyfriend, and will likely place third in the regional violin competition. Now that deciding on a college is approaching, June is unsure what her future holds because she just doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Her mom's pressure to be better, her boyfriend's lack of commitment, and friends who support her but don't encourage her aren't helping. Is June searching for meaning in the wrong places? This novel is sure to resonate with teens who haven't yet found their calling and who are trying to figure out who they are. June's need for boys' attention can be at times frustrating, but readers can empathize with her search for relevancy. The plot has a nice arc, and there's value in all the struggles the main character is presented with. VERDICT A good and relevant purchase for all high school collections.—Carol Youssif
A Taiwanese American girl in the Midwest embarks on a series of relationships with boys in pursuit of a life of her own choosing.
June Chu longs to be an ordinary teenager, but it’s hard when her mother constantly makes her feel like nothing she does—not even scoring 100% on a calculus test—is good enough. Instead, she’s always comparing her to Wendy, her valedictorian older sister. June’s father is a peripheral figure—rarely present and deferring to her mom on parenting. But June, who describes herself as “just a realist who knows that I live at riiiight about the third-place level,” is determined to carve out her own senior year path, one more relaxed than Wendy’s was. She wants to have a boyfriend, to apply to colleges of her own choosing, and to stop feeling guilty if she’s not spending every spare minute studying or practicing violin. But as June carries out “Mission: Boyfriend” and takes steps toward the autonomy she’s been longing for, she realizes that the rigid assumptions she’s held about her mother and Wendy have ultimately kept her from defining—and going after—what she really wants. The panoply of supporting characters in this story that explores sexuality, gender roles, and relationships is finely drawn, and June is a winning protagonist with a lively, appealing voice that renders the repartee between her and her flinty, anxious mother simultaneously infuriating, hilarious, and poignant.
A fresh tale about a teen’s struggles to define herself. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)