Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Boy You Always Wanted, by Michelle Quach

Francine's grandfather is dying and he carries one major regret:  he has no male heir to carry on the family name and tend to the family's graves.  For a Chinese Vietnamese, this is a big deal and a thing that Francine can do little to help.  But when she learns that there is a tradition where families could adopt an unrelated young man to serve as the heir, she thinks she may have a solution and a way to make her grandfather's final days happy.  She just needs to find someone to become her grandfather's honorary heir.  They don't even have to carry through on it, just promise to do so until grandfather passes away.

Francine is a good student and extremely conscientious, but none of that has made her popular at school.  The only male acquaintance she can think of would be Ollie and they are hardly friends.  Ollie for his part is always a bit amused by Francine, but doesn't think of her as a friend either.  And he certainly has no interest in participating in what Francine has taken to calling "The Plan." But when Ollie turns out to need Francine's help, the two of them devise a transactional arrangement and Ollie finds himself sucked into Francine's family's drama.  It's actually a welcome change for Ollie because his family couldn't be any more distant from each other.  And while the entire set-up is based on deceit, a true attachment arises that proves to be surprisingly genuine.

The creepy premise of the story initially put me off the story, but it ends well and the truth is surprisingly liberating.  Largely a story about family and about learning to accept change, everyone gets a chance to learn a thing or two.  While there are a few rough spots and a subplot about a scheming best friend that never quite connects with the main story nor becomes the humor relief it is intended to serve, I enjoyed the cultural details and the nuanced characters.

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