A review by wilybooklover
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

emotional lighthearted fast-paced


This book started out so well and was on the way to being a four-star read, but alas, did not work for me in the end. I enjoyed the autistic representation (written by an autistic author), Michael’s family and the portrayal of Vietnamese culture, and Stella. I loved her — she’s such a complex and unique character and had a great character arc. Hated the rest, lol. The story was way too formulaic and this is coming from someone who loves the predictable nature of romance novels and finds it comforting. Stella and Michael’s attraction seemed almost purely physical; I wanted to see a stronger emotional connection, more substance. I was uncomfortable with the way that sex work and sex workers were portrayed at several points. I don’t think the topic of sexual assault was handled very well or really unpacked properly by Stella. Michael says his mother dying would ‘free’ him, framing sick/disabled people as burdens on their family (granted I have no experience with the American healthcare system but surely that’s the real issue here). 

Mostly, though, it was Michael who ruined the book for me. He’s pushy, domineering, overly possessive, and can’t take no for an answer. He literally stalks Stella and follows her home, repeatedly goes after her and presses his romantic attentions on her after she turns him down and tells him to leave her alone MULTIPLE TIMES. That’s not sexy; it’s creepy and scary. Yet when another man won’t take no for an answer, he’s angry even though it’s a very similar kind of behaviour as his own. One is portrayed as wrong and the other OK purely based on who is perpetrating the behaviour. Make it make sense. Not only that but after being sexually assaulted which is obviously very upsetting for Stella, does he offer her support or comfort? No, he feels the need to ‘mark her as his’ as if she’s his property. She initially tells him no to kissing after such a traumatic event and is clearly uncomfortable with it but does he respect that? Of course not, he forces her into it anyway and then fucks her because HE needs it! Fuck Stella’s needs, I guess. 

Of course, he knew she didn’t really want him to leave her alone because he knows better. Same with the sex scenes: he overrides her own wishes (that she states to him clearly) and pushes her into doing things she dislikes and feels uncomfortable with because he apparently knows better than her about her own body. He tells her to dress and do her hair how he likes it rather than how she prefers. She can’t even eat what she wants without him trying to control it. He knows she has a hard time in loud/social situations and she tells him she’d rather go home because she’s tired, but he forces her to go to his large, boisterous family’s house anyway. He’s just forever violating her boundaries even (and especially) when she says she’s uncomfortable with doing something. Yeah, he says all the right things about respecting her consent, but his actions and thoughts don’t line up so it just feels manipulative and patronising. He may be teaching her how to be in a relationship but it’s certainly not a healthy one. The controlling behaviour, questionable consent, and complete disregard for Stella’s agency really put me off and made me feel uneasy. 

There were also a few things that bothered me in terms of writing. Michael is described as looking like a specific celebrity, which is not only a lazy way to describe someone but just something I despise, especially in romance. Much of Michael’s inner monologue comes off as immature with dude-bro style casual misogyny (e.g. ‘the only reason a woman should wear a pencil skirt is to show off her ass’). The book is laden with gender essentialism and bizarre lines such as ‘a natural talent for fucking’ (LMAO) and ‘she had the kind of nipples men and babies dreamed about’ (what??). The dirty talk was... not good. 

I can’t believe this book got recommended to me as having a kind, gentle hero and good consent. I am genuinely baffled. If that is what you want then this book is not it. 

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