The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Romantic Comedy. Standalone in a related series. Stands well alone.
*If you like shorter reviews, skip down to The Down & Dirty*
“Nothing gets to you. It’s like your heart is made of stone.”
Khai’s emotions are expressed differently than the average person and when he didn’t cry at something everyone else did, he assumed he was completely incapable of love and pushed everyone away.
“Lonely was for people who had feelings, which he didn’t. It wasn’t loneliness if it could be eradicated with work or a Netflix marathon or a good book. Real loneliness would stick with you all the time. Real loneliness would hurt you nonstop. Khai didn’t hurt. He felt nothing most of the time.”
Khai had resigned himself to being alone, and he was fine about it until his mother traveled to Vietnam to find him a wife. Esme lived in a tiny one-room shack in Vietnam, sleeping on the floor with her child and her parents and cleaning hotel bathrooms to support them. When Khai’s mom happened upon her, she knew she found the perfect girl for him. Desperately wanting a better life for her family, Esme left her child with her parents and went to California for the summer.
Khai can’t say no to his mother, so when she tells him he will have a roommate for the summer, the young man who doesn’t even date can’t refuse her. Esme’s energy and desire to please Khai was refreshingly adorable. Khai fighting his feelings for her was such a cool thing to read about because he truly believed he has no feelings. But what bothered me is that nobody explained to Esme that Khai was different and may not treat her as she thinks he should. I mean, his mom brought her over from Vietnam and wants them to work out, why wouldn’t she explain?
“I’m autistic, and I have sensory issues. There’s a certain way to touch me, especially my face and hair.” He switched his attention to her face. “It’s probably best if I show you. Can you give me one of your hands?”
This was one of the rare times autism was even mentioned in the book. But with a language barrier and being caught in the moment, it went in in one ear and out the other for Esme. Had he, or anyone in his family explained it better, so much angst could have been spared (but then I guess we wouldn’t have a great book, right?)
Khai never thought he’d be with a woman, so his discovery of his needs was charmingly funny.
“Fuck, he was sporting an erection in his damned car. If he hit a speed bump, he’d probably break his dick in half. He needed to think about the desert, the arctic, Statement Number 157 from the Financial Accounting Standards Board, anything else.”
And when things progress, he really doesn’t know what to do.
“They don’t talk about the ‘clitoris’ in health class at school.” It didn’t even sound real. For all he knew, it was an urban myth, like the Chupacabra.”
Reading the book, you know Khai is in love, but he thinks he isn’t capable.
“Love and addiction were different things.”
But he was more than capable of love, and I loved everything about Khai. I never doubted his love, but Esme had so many other reasons for wanting to stay in America that I never felt like she was 100% in it for Khai rather than the opportunities in America.
I still loved every second of reading this sweet and unique novel, I just wish I felt more of her love for him.
- How different Khai was from Stella in the first book. It shows how unique Autism is to each person that has it.
- It was funny! Khai’s inner voice and his innocence were sweet and funny at the same time.
- How important family was.
- The true Vietnamese culture.
- Esme’s strength and desire to better herself both for herself and her family.
- More of Quan! We need his book, please!
- Seeing her impact on his orderly life made me laugh. I loved watching his obsession and addiction to her grow.
- The author’s note at the end was so important to the story.
- I would have liked to have felt her connection to him and love for him a little stronger.
- The one thing that bothered me is that he only mentioned he was autistic and had sensory issues once (until towards the end) and then brushed it aside. Had he encouraged her to look it up, or if any of his family explained it to her, she would have understood him so much more. I feel like the author missed a fantastic opportunity to educate, but instead glossed over it.
- She kept her secret for way too long.
- The end felt rushed.
The Down & Dirty:
Rating: 4.5 Stars, 3.5 Heat