This is My Brain in Love
Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.
Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.
Then Jocelyn's father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it's up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).
What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.
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.