E-Book Review | The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Title: The Kiss Quotient | Author: Helen Hoang | Published: 2018 by Berkley| Pages: 333 | Format: eBook


A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks Math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic. (Goodreads)

*WARNING: This book contains mature and explicit scenes*

My Rating

Poorly Written, Cliché Story-line but Good Representation.

I previously saw this book floating around the YouTube Book Community, but I didn’t really give it much attention. But I was feeling spontaneous one day and got this book on impulse. Going into this book, I didn’t really know much about it. However, my interest was definitely piqued when I read the premise.

It seems that it was the book version of Pretty Woman, that stared the beautiful Julie Roberts. However, we get a refreshing subversion that is embodied through gender roles being reversed whilst comprising an ownvoice story of a woman with Asperger’s. Now, I’m not usually a chick-lit/romance type of gal but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to give this book a try. I was also excited and curious on how Helen Hoang would weave all these elements into a captivating story.

The book definitely had a good blend of sweet and steamy moments…and when I mean steamy, they get REAL steamy. Unfortunately, the book did have a lot of issues that detracted my excitement from this book. 

The story unfolds as we follow our main protagonist, Stella Lane, who has Asperger’s. She is convinced that she is terrible at relationships because of her inability to want physical contact. To fix this, she decides to take lessons on how to be good at sex and relationships from an escort. This is where she hires Michael, a half-Vietnamese half-Swedish escort who, as much as he’d like to, can’t afford to refuse her proposal. Inevitably, they end up developing feelings for each other.

From Stella’s perspective, the reader really gets to understand and empathise how Stella struggles to understand how to behave around people as a result of her autism. Helen Hoang really did an amazing job at portraying Asperger’s in this book by going in-depth on how it affects the person that is dealing with this disability. It was also nice to know that the representation was authentic as the author herself was diagnosed with autism whilst researching for this book. It really gave the reader an amazing glimpse and perspective of those who have autism.

Fanart illustrated by eklixio

However, the main issue I had was the way the author had portrayed Stella’s autism as the problem rather than a characteristic flaw. Even at the start of the book, she believed that the reason for her failings in relationships was because of her inability to like physical contact as a result to her autism.

Not because she is this smart, beautiful and accomplished young woman who, evidently, has had the misfortune of previously coming across men who have never cared for anything other than their own entertainment and clearly do not have her well-being in mind. As a result of that, she just stood there and took the weight of the blame by believing she deserved to be treated that way. It really bothered me at how it brushed aside the fact that she, or rather her disability, wasn’t the issue. Instead, the author just made it the focal point.

It further annoyed me when the author conveniently made her “quirkiness” (this was how the symptoms of her disability were described in the book) disappear as soon as the leading man was introduced and because he was attractive. It irked me at how it was not ok when an ‘unattractive’ guy does it but when a hot piece of man candy comes in and does the same thing, it’s totally ok. It was even stated that he [Michael] was going to screw the “anxiety” out of her [Stella] – and no, he did not say screw but let’s keep it PG here.I mean I get that he was more respectful and treated her a lot better than her previous lovers but because Stella didn’t know any better, the poor girl lapped up any attention she got from a guy who gave her the smallest bit of decency. I mean the bar could not be any lower.

Not only that, you can really see how the character development is done so poorly when every guy, who is romantically interested in her, is portrayed as an a-hole apart from the main guy. I really can’t overstate how exhausted and over-used this trope is. I mean, if your romance is only certain because every possible love interest is unbearable… then you clearly have an issue here.

However, with that being said, there were some elements that were written well enough for me not to totally hate this book. I absolutely loved the way the Vietnamese culture was depicted throughout this story. It really teaches the reader the core of Vietnamese culture through the food and how family-oriented Vietnamese people are. Being Asian myself, I saw a lot of similarities in my culture to the culture that was depicted in this book.

Although I was a bit on the fence in terms of Stella’s and Michael relationship, I did understand the author’s message of consent and loving yourself for who you are. It was well executed throughout their relationship as Michael shows that there is nothing wrong with who Stella is and there is nothing to change about her. Although it would have been better if Stella hadn’t needed Michael to show her, her worth and that she was more than her disability.

Overall, I can understand why a lot of people would love this book. It’s one of those books where it’s not particularly well written but you still want to read it over and over again. Considering the representation was done very well and how it gave readers and insight of people who have Autism, I’d say it wasn’t terrible. However, the issues such as making the disability seem like a problem and how the romance was quite cheesy, and cliché-y just cheapened the whole experience of the book.

What do you think about this book? Do you think disability and ethnic representation should be represented more on both media and books? Do you think they are well represented?