Review of Boys I Know

Boys I Know Boys I Know
by Anna Gracia
High School     Peachtree Teen    352 pp.         g
7/22     978-1-68263-371-7     $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68263-452-3    $12.99

June Chu, a Taiwanese American high school senior living in Iowa, struggles to understand her identity as she tries to reconcile the conflicting influences of her strict and traditional family, her at-times clueless friends, and the boys she dates. She bounces from emotionally unavailable Rhys to affectionate but culturally incompetent Brad (who calls her “China”) to devious Gang, all while experiencing difficulty truly loving and believing in herself. Her similarly fraught on-again, off-again commitment to playing the violin, especially as a means for getting into college, mirrors her unsuccessful attempts to separate from her mom’s influence and control. In a believable, immersive teen voice, June narrates her complicated feelings about representation and visibility as well as independence and coming of age. Pressured to call out her friends’ microaggressions, June is reluctant to do so, demonstrating the burden of emotional labor too often placed on BIPOC folks to correct others’ behavior. Most notably, Gracia’s sophisticated rendering of June’s sexual experiences normalizes sexually active and thoughtful teens, and models behavior that prioritizes consent, choice (including the decision to obtain the morning-after pill from Planned Parenthood), and self-care.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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