July 17, 2018

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang


I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Consider it a modern take on Pretty Woman, but with more depth. No disrespect is meant toward Pretty Woman, it is one of my favorite movies and it always warms my heart when I see it on tv. But in this version, the man is “Julia Roberts” and the woman is “Richard Gere,” both with a twist.

The hero, Michael Phan is a Korean American who works in his family-owned dry cleaning business. A successful fashion designer by trade, he left the runways and showrooms of New York behind to move back to California after his mother fell ill. Now, trapped in a day-to-day that provides little creative gratification and not nearly the money he was making in NYC, he moonlights one night a week as a male escort to help pay the medical bills being racked up by is mother’s failing health.

Enter Stella Lane, an econometrician who keeps her Autism Spectrum Disorder (most know it as Asperger’s) diagnosis to herself. Her colleagues think she’s highly motivated and brilliant but a bit odd. All she wants is to be treated like everyone else—good, bad, or otherwise. Unfortunately, the quirkiness that makes Stella endearing and unique also leaves her challenged when it comes to personal relationships, particularly those with the opposite sex. As a result of the constant pressure from her parents to marry, Stella seeks out an escort to help her overcome her bedroom angst.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this story is that throughout the majority of it, Michael doesn’t know that Stella is autistic. He enjoys her company, they have things in common, and they share common goals—they simply fall in love. It is so refreshing to read a story where the characters accept and love each other for who they are. But love is never that simple is it?

The interactions between cultures reflect the current day—Stella is a white woman from a well-to-do white-collar family, while Michael is experiencing the struggles of working in a first-generation immigrant small business. Both families make missteps and assumptions. Most of them, however, have little to do with the divide between cultures and more with people trying to make good lasting impressions because of the ones they love.

I really can’t say enough good things about this book. Having been released just last month, the only reviews and discussions I’ve seen and heard have been positive. Hoang, who herself has Autism Spectrum Disorder, has written a poignant, witty, and heartfelt story that’s truly reflective of the times we live in today.

In a world where health-care is expensive and confusing. People are fighting harder and harder to be accepted for who they are. Cultures and individual beliefs are on a constant collision course. Finding a story of true love in the midst of it all is a happily ever after that I think everyone can enjoy. There is so much substance in this light-hearted tale, you will be sorry if you don’t put The Kiss Quotient on your short list to read.

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