A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen
Published February 2nd 2021 by Razorbill
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rep: Taiwanese-American cast, bisexual Taiwanese-American SC
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
A Taste for Love was tots adorable. Do people even say that anymore? I loved everything from the baking to the romance to the Asian representation, especially the culture and cuisines. Embroiled in a matchmaking session for her, Liza’s appalled and annoyed at her mother’s actions.
Jennifer Yen wrote a realistic story about an Asian parent’s wishes for their child and the child’s unwillingness to follow traditional ways. All the pop culture references to Chinese and Taiwanese dramas and actors like Deng Lun and Luo Yunxi just made me excited. One can’t get enough of food so all the descriptions of delicious cuisines got me salivating.
Meddling Asian mother’s rules for dating: only Asian boys (best: Taiwanese), tall and smart (future career either a doctor or engineer). Unfortunately for Liza, her mother’s matchmaking ways are on another level. As the owner of the popular bakery, Yin and Yang Bakery, Mrs. Yang throws an annual bake-off as a method to give back to those who have supported them after the family had immigrated to the United States twelve years ago. In this year’s competition, Mrs. Yang transformed it into a matchmaking session by only accepting Asian American participants.
During the baking competition, Liza realised her mother’s scheme to matchmake her with a competitor. This doesn’t happen until 65% into the book though. For the most of part one, Jennifer Yen used the time to establish Liza’s relationship with her sister and her mother, Mrs. Yang’s scheming ways, and the little moments Liza had with James.
“Broken hearts are unavoidable,” he says quietly. “Even when you do everything possible to protect yourself.”
Since Mrs. Yang didn’t pick the bakers based on their skills and accolades but rather who ticked the boxes for her criteria for Liza’s boyfriend, most of the contestants weren’t even good. With that, you know something is bound to happen. It’s impossible not to be feel bad for Liza whenever she was thrown into unwanted situations. Though Liza’s family is in the Food & Beverage industry, they refused to let Liza pursue a career in baking. As traditional Asian parents, they would prefer their daughter went to college for a degree.
Despite efforts in distancing herself from the contestants, the attraction between James and Liza was inevitable. Though he was prickly and extremely reserved, always brooding and intense, in the beginning, James had another side of him that jokes around and was more light-hearted. He had his sweet moments, especially that cherry blossom scene during the baking competition. It didn’t hurt that James could actually bake, and was good at it.
“Fine. James is nice to look at, but he’s got the personality of a honey badger.”
I adored Liza’s friendship with Grace, her best friend, who is always up for a boba trip. They could communicate their thoughts and emotions to one another with just glances.
I had a wonderful time reading A Taste for Love! The baking element really added a more romantic spin into this already cute romance. While this is about Liza falling in love, the biggest takeaway that I got was Liza’s relationship with her mother. Though Mrs. Yang did go over and beyond for the “perfect match”, it stemmed from a place of good. Not communicating love verbally and freely is quite a common trait in Asian families, especially between parents and children, at least from my own experiences.
The next review is for Jennifer Yen’s Love, Decoded.
Love, Decoded by Jennifer Yen
Published March 8th 2022 by Razorbill
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
Rep: Taiwanese-American MC, Chinese-European LI, Filipina-American SC, Chinese-American SCs
High school junior Gigi Wong strives to be the best: the top student, the perfect friend, and the ideal daughter. But it’s tough when there’s always someone who is just a little bit better. With college applications looming, she can’t help but worry that she won’t make the cut. Thankfully, her best friend Kyle never fails to find the right words–and the perfect bowl of ramen–to cheer her up.
After her teacher, Ms. Harris, announces she’ll be nominating students for an app writing contest, Gigi is determined to be picked. After all, first prize is an exclusive tech internship, sure to make her application stand out. There’s only one problem: she doesn’t have a winning program. It isn’t until transfer student Etta admits she’s struggling to fit in at Superbia that Gigi stumbles on an idea. She’ll use her coding skills–and the matchmaking experience she’s gotten from weekends with Auntie Rose–to create a friend matching app! Etta will meet new people, and Gigi will guarantee her acceptance into college. It’s foolproof.
What Gigi doesn’t expect is for her app to go viral around school. Soon, she finds herself at the center of a scandal–and at odds with both Etta and Kyle. Can Gigi fix what went wrong, or will her desire to be perfect cost her the people she cares about most?
Unsurprising, I had a wonderful time reading Love, Decoded. Gigi’s to-do list is decked up: (a) apply for college, (b) part-time at Great Aunt Rosie’s matchmaking store, (c) code an app for school, (d) participate in an app writing contest for an exclusive internship, (e) taking care of the family, (f) mentoring at SYC and (g) be perfect.
In Love, Decoded, Gigi places immense pressure on herself to be the best person ever. All the things she does are to please others and to show that she can thrive when she puts her heart into things. Going to Columbia to make her father happy and started to train as the future matchmaker to continue the family’s legacy. But these might not be what she truly wants.
This standalone follows after Jennifer Yen’s debut, A Taste for Love and we get cameos of James and Liza whenever Gigi needs a little advice session. Although the siblings are far away from one another, James still managed to fill Gigi with brotherly love. The family dynamic is pretty interesting. While Gigi’s parents are supportive and caring, it unfortunately translates to something negative for Gigi as she struggles with their expectations and her own.
A new student started in Superbia, a prestigious school with quite an elitist student body, and finds herself struggling to fit in. Using her skills, Gigi created an app that would match like-minded friends together which means that she will be able to help Etta meet new people and submit this idea as part of the contest.
One thing, though, I really wanted more Kyle and Gigi together. We all know that Kyle likes Gigi, but Gigi doesn’t know that, and it burns. I mean, who would carry your bookbag, walk you home every day, listen to you rant about things, and have weird reactions when you said you have someone else alone at your home with you? Best friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes, so I was definitely invested in Gigi and Kyle’s. I adored their banter and the chemistry.
Overall, Gigi has a lot on her plate, and I can relate to the pressure she placed on herself. I enjoyed this light-hearted, coming-of-age story featuring a Taiwanese-American in STEM.