If You, Then Me, by Yvonne Woon. Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins, 2021. 9780063008649
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Xia Chan lives in Worcester, MA, and with no siblings, only one friend, and her single mom’s multiple jobs as an adjunct history professor, she spends a lot of time alone. A computer geek, she creates an artificial intelligence named Wiser that functions like an adult version of Xia, always up for providing company and dispensing advice. She’s also got an online crush who goes by the moniker ObjectPermanence. She dreams of spending her junior year at the Foundry, a fully-funded and competitive incubator for young Silicon Valley wanna-bes and (cue wish fulfillment) wins a spot. But once she gets there, she feels like an imposter, although she hopes that a chance run in with her hero (former Foundry champion, Mitzy Erst) will solve all her problems. Xia soon ends up at the bottom of a tech rabbit hole filled with scams, heavy partying, and glitzy shopping excursions, abandoning Wiser, a cute real guy named Mast, and blowing off all her classes. I really liked the first half of the book. Xia’s mom is a Taiwanese immigrant and there’s an interesting culture clash between the two about frivolity and expressing affection. I also found Wiser entertaining and enterprising. Xia’s California friend Amina, from a Haitian immigrant family in New York, had a lot going on and Xia’s realization that ObjectPermanence is one of the guys at the Foundry provided some guessing game-style diversion.
Anything you didn’t like about it? First half, promising, but by the second half, I had lost interest. I would have preferred to spend more time learning about Xia, programming and the challenges that being a girl from a modest, immigrant family pose for both Xia and Amina, and less time watching Xia get shafted by the opportunistic Mitzy. The cute, blossoming relationship with Mast also gets ditched for the continued pursuit of ObjectPermanence. I understand Woon wants to emphasize Xia’s naivete and subsequent growth; instead her main character ended up seeming a bit dense.
To whom would you recommend this book? Teens looking for romance with a tech angle. Readers who enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi (2017) by Sandhya Menon might find this a read alike.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: July 29, 2021