ARC REVIEW: Boys I Know by Anna Gracia

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Boys I Know
by Anna Gracia
Releasing on July 26th, 2022
Published by PeachTree Teen
Young Adult Fiction–Contemporary, Romance

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June Chu is the “just good enough” girl. Good enough to line the shelves with a slew of third-place trophies and steal secret kisses from her AP Bio partner, Rhys. But not good enough to meet literally any of her Taiwanese mother’s unrelenting expectations or to get Rhys to commit to anything beyond a well-timed joke.

While June’s mother insists she follow in her (perfect) sister’s footsteps and get a (full-ride) violin scholarship to Northwestern (to study pre-med), June doesn’t see the point in trying too hard if she’s destined to fall short anyway. Instead, she focuses her efforts on making her relationship with Rhys “official.” But after her methodically-planned, tipsily-executed scheme explodes on the level of a nuclear disaster, she flings herself into a new relationship with a guy who’s not allergic to the word “girlfriend.”

But as the line between sex and love blurs, and pressure to map out her entire future threatens to burst, June will have to decide on whose terms she’s going to live her life—even if it means fraying her relationship with her mother beyond repair.

TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING(S): Microaggressions, Sex on-page

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Disclaimer: I was provided both a physical and digital ARC by the publisher in return for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion.

Boys I Know was everything it had said it would be and more. Depicting messy teenagers, hard situations and bad decisions with a mix of finding oneself amidst the problems spread around, this novel was a very enjoyable read.

Anna Gracia brings readers into the story with a down-low plot. This story does not have an ulterior plan or motive, it is simply a coming-of-age about a girl that makes some really bad decisions before coming full circle into realizing her wrongs and beginning to right them.

Gracia’s characters are some readers will easily recognize to be as “dislikable” and “messy,” as had been described in the book’s pitch. The main character, June, is not the best person. Judgemental, a bit rude, and somewhat self-absorbed, June is not fully aware of how she really is. Throughout the story, she makes mistakes that a lot of real-life teens make too. Saying the wrong things to friends, not communicating the proper reasons for why you are upset to your partner, sleeping with another just because, dating someone because you are not entirely sure what love is, not listening to your parent even when they might be right. June struggles a lot with her mom being overbearing and, at times, negative about anything June finds fulfilling. But come to the end of the novel, much of June’s problems are sorted out with the new comprehension of all she had been doing wrong and what she needed to do going forward to be better.

When it came to the side characters, one can find they might be unsure of whether to be supportive or not. In the case of characters like Brad, readers can find it easy to dislike him (or even hate him, when consideration is given to what he had done and said to June). However, when it came to June’s friends like Candace and Liz, as well as June’s ex Rhys, it became a bit more complicated. Candace, Liz, and Rhys all had separate problems–the type that you could not help but be frustrated by but hold an understanding of how they got there and/or why they would be making such statements, actions, or decisions. Gracia made this possible by expanding those situations throughout the story instead of just within a chapter or two, and it made the experience all the more worthwhile.

As for the story itself, this was one that was both hard and easy to get through. As mentioned several times before, this is not a happy-feeling story. That is what makes it harder to get through. With all the messy teenagers and situations, one can easily find themself frustrated if not having been faced with similar circumstances before or if having been through the circumstance but having not quite fully healed from it. Boys I Know is meant to be this way. This is what sets this book apart from others. It is different, but it is still a very good and enjoyable story.

What was interesting to see, however, were the differences pointed out during the shifting settings. June was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, specifically Iowa. The Midwest is a predominantly-white culture setting, and because of that, oftentimes, minorities are left to struggle in many ways. Gracia capitalized on this, and this was a necessary detail that was a part of the story.

Overall, I really loved Boys I Know. I took my time with this book because I wanted to thoroughly read and enjoy it, and that goal was ultimately achieved. For that, I give it a single star rating and do recommend it to other readers, specifically those who are in favor of very messy characters. I look forward to seeing what Anna Gracia will release in the future.

Separators (1)Anna Gracia AuthorAnna grew up biracial in the Midwest, spending her formative years repeatedly answering the question “What are you?” Before finding her way as a young adult author, she was a CPA, a public school teacher, a tennis coach, and for one glorious summer, a waitress at a pie shop. She now lives on the West Coast, raising three kids and writing stories about girls navigating a world full of double standards.


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