This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020
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.
This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.
Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.
Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.
And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.
I really enjoyed Will and Jocelyn’s relationship. They connect straight away, and despite their awkwardness manage to form a relationship pretty soon into the story. This is where the book differs from other YA romances. We don’t have to wait for the outcome of the possibility. We already have that, the characters must face and focus on the obstacles to their continued dating (and kissing), including their own mental health and the expectations of their families.
I really enjoyed the times, and it is the majority of the book, where Will and Jos are working together to improve her family’s Chinese restaurant. They make a great team and the project and work they throw themselves into was a great part of the book. The inclusion of all those dumplings and smells and tastes of the food didn’t hurt either.
A sweet story about facing the reality of mental health, the complications of relationship and the blessing of family and good food, lovers of realistic YA fiction will eat This is My Brain In Love right up.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Mental health, anxiety, depression, family, Chinese food, Nigerian food, Nigerian culture, father-daughter relationships, family business, cooking, restaurants, films, film marking, scholarships, business.
Reading age guide: Ages 12/13 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, including vague references to being aroused. References to suicidal thoughts. References to mental health and depression. Infrequent coarse language, f*** (3), sh** (36), bi*** (4), as***** (5), pi** (8).
Published: 14 April 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 384 pages.