cover image The Bride Test

The Bride Test

Helen Hoang. Berkley, $15 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-451-49082-7

Hoang’s touching second contemporary romance (after The Kiss Quotient) explores what the American dream might mean to a young, mixed-race Vietnamese woman and the autistic Vietnamese-American man she’s matched up with. California-born Khai processes emotions differently than most people do; at age 16, when he doesn’t grieve in a conventional way over the death of a cousin, he thinks he’s incapable of feeling love. Ten years later, he’s a wealthy accountant, and his matchmaking mother informs him that Esme, an uneducated janitor she met in Vietnam, will be staying with him for the summer and is meant to be his eventual wife. Khai resolves to make the best of things until he can send Esme home, but their instant mutual attraction complicates matters. As they fumble toward understanding each other, Esme searches for her American father and pursues higher education. Class and cultural differences and mistaken beliefs prove to be greater barriers to their romance than differences of mental wiring. The evolution of Khai’s feelings toward Esme, and the way she comes to understand and care for him, are beautifully developed, and the relationship they form feels delicate yet bursting with hope. With serious moments offset by spot-on humor, this romance has broad appeal, and it will find a special place in the hearts of autistic people and those who love them. Agent: Kim Lionetti, Bookends. (May)