Let me start by saying that I am so, so happy Helen Hoang was able to write the book she wanted and needed to write. Her author’s notes always touch me, but this one was especially poignant. Hoang crafts undeniably beautiful books with imperfect characters you will both relate to and root for and THE HEART PRINCIPLE was no exception.
Anna and Quan’s book hit me right in the solar plexus. From our first meeting with Anna and her detestable boyfriend, I knew this book would grip me from start to finish. Anna’s emotional journey was heart-wrenchingly, achingly real. My heart literally hurt for her at parts.
While I feel this book is very much Anna’s journey, the romance and Quan are still a central and integral part of the plot. Is this book heavy? Yes. Does it tackle multiple serious and important plot points? Absolutely. But it has light moments and sexy parts that help balance the overall tone of the book. Quan is essential to those lighter moments. Quan was everything. Fans of this series have been waiting on his book, and while he has had some bumps and bruises both emotionally and physically since the last book, it only served to make him a better partner to Anna. He’s strong and funny and the solid rock we all want our book boyfriends to be. Plus, he’s super hot? That’s a given, right? When he pulls up on his motorcycle for his first date with Anna? WHEW. HOT.
The relationship between Anna and Quan felt modern and fresh and, honestly, relatable. Anna’s boyfriend wants to be in an open relationship and starts dating other women, so Anna gets on a dating app. From first date anxiety to hook-up culture to awkwardly intimate conversations with strangers online, dating is tough – Anna was lucky she found Quan on her first try!
There is a lot of discussion around this book, for good reason. I read this book weeks ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. I agonized over this review because the book dug up so much emotion in me. The themes of family guilt and expectations, especially within Asian culture was fascinating. Adding in Anna’s diagnosis and the ripple effect through her family, there was a lot going on and it was all handled with a deft and empathetic hand.
Now, was this a five star book for me? Sadly, no. I did love it, but the ending was so incredibly rushed and almost frantic that I felt a little overwhelmed. I think the pacing was a little off. The caretaking scenes were vital, but they took up so much page time that I felt a little shortchanged by the last 10% of the book.
I also had difficulty with Anna and Quan’s emotional connection at the end. It was there at the beginning, but the relationship was so incredibly one-sided. Relationships are often uneven, and partners help you carry the emotional load, but I wanted Anna to help Quan occasionally. Or at least listen to him? There was a part of the book I noted that Anna didn’t even know what Quan did for a living (which, happens to be his passion) well into their dating journey. Additionally, when Quan has struggles at said job, he solves them without Anna getting involved at all. It made their journey feel like two parallel tracks rather than an ultimate merge. Much of their relationship happens off-screen and I think the romance ultimately suffers for it.
I kept this at four stars because it’s a really, really good book, and I adore the idea that the characters we grow to love don’t have to have it all figured out at the end of the book for there to still be a happy and hopeful ending. Oftentimes, emotional struggles last a lifetime and imperfect people deserve to find love and relationships too.
Overall, this was a beautifully written book that I will continue to think about for months to come.
TW: Grief, caretaking, loss of a parent, suicidal thoughts
**I received a free copy of this audiobook in order to provide an honest review**