Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 801
beautifully written read, tackling tough topics
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
THIS IS MY BRAIN IN LOVE is a powerful YA contemporary romance about family, mental illness, and working hard to save the family business. Jocelyn has finished her sophomore year of high school, and she lives with her family above the Chinese restaurant that they own called A-Plus. Her life might be turned upside down when her parents announce that the restaurant has not been doing well and that they might have to leave Utica to go back to NYC, where her uncle runs restaurant chains with one in need of a manager.

Jocelyn (Jos) gets her parents to agree to let her try some things with social media and marketing to increase profits and allow them to stay where she has currently built her life. As part of that, she gets to hire someone to help. William (Will) is looking for a summer job opportunity when he applies to the posting Jos made. When he is offered the job, he is somewhat surprised to accept, but he knows that he can help with web presence and some other ideas to help the business.

Told in alternating points-of-view, Will and Jos are characters that come alive throughout this completely engrossing and charming YA contemporary romance.

What I loved: This book is really beautifully written. Both Jos and Will completely come to life and though it seems like a breezy and cute romance at the start, the story gains huge depth from their personal challenges and does not shy away from tough topics. The two main characters are struggling with mental illness (anxiety and depression), and they are aware of the stigmas around this. While Will has been in therapy for years, learning to use cognitive behavioral techniques to aid with his anxiety and panic attacks, Jos does not recognize her own symptoms. There are also some secondary characters with other mental illnesses (post-partum depression, anorexia and likely ADHD) that shine a light on the stigmas and the need for IEPs, therapy, and, when appropriate, medication.

The book also tackles race and microaggressions a bit in the book, as Jos is a second generation Chinese American and Will is biracial with his mother being Nigerian American. Both encounter microaggressions and racism during the course of the book that have an impact made clear to the reader. These inclusions are an important secondary theme in the book. These experiences also relate to how they approach other themes (mental illness, dating, academic expectations, etc.), and as this is an #ownvoices story, it really adds to the immersion in this world and with these three-dimensional characters.

Another minor theme is in wealth disparity, as Will's family is wealthy while Jos's family is struggling to make ends meet with the restaurant. They are also challenged by practices that seem unfair but are legal like rent hikes and other ways that can be used to force businesses or tenants out. As a budding reporter, Will knows that there is a story there, and he uses his skills to investigate deeper.

I also really loved how the parents in the book ultimately love and support their children, even if the path to getting there is not easy. The familial bonds in the book are background but really important. Also, the portrayal of therapy as a helpful tool is really useful and encouraging to young readers who may be in similar situations.

Final verdict: Powerfully written with an adorable love story, THIS IS MY BRAIN IN LOVE is a great YA contemporary romance that will sweep readers off their feet. Highly recommend for fans of Maurene Goo, Sandhya Menon, and/or Angie Thomas.
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