One day awhile back, I was walking through the books section at Target and spotted a book called Dial A For Aunties. There was no world in which it was not coming home with me. Fast forward a bit and I find out the author, Jesse Q. Sutanto, has a new book coming out and you'll never guess the title...Well, That Was Unexpected. I know. I love the title as well. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC through NetGalley and I can't even express how excited I am for this book to come out and y'all to read it.
After Sharlot Citra gets caught in a compromising position by her mother, she is whisked away to her mother's native Indonesia to reconnect with the family she's never met and the roots she's never connected with. Her mother believes this is going to be exactly what the two of them need. At the same time, George Clooney Tanuwijaya's father can't seem to figure out how to connect with his son and takes matters into his own hands. The two parents end up catfishing each other using the kids' social media accounts which leads to a hilarious rom-com adventure in this beautiful love letter to Indonesia.
We've all heard about it. Catfishing. Someone pretends to be someone they aren't online, usually to trick someone into dating them. Well, in this case, you have George's father messaging Sharlot's social media account pretending to be George. What he doesn't know is that on the other end is Sharlot's mother pretending to be Sharlot. This is the kind of stuff that you can't make up...unless, of course, you are Jesse Q. Sutanto who literally did make it up.
This story was up there with the extravagance of Crazy Rich Asians but with the same themes of family, reconnecting with your roots, and finding yourself. There were some expected cringey moments when reading through the messages George's father and Sharlot's mother send as their respective child, when the two meet for the first time in person, when George's family interferes...there are a good handful of cringey moments and, somehow, it all works so well.
Following along with George and Sharlot is like the slowest slow burn that ever slow burned. The dual POV adds to the frustration you feel as the reader because you know the secret they are each keeping from the other. Somehow, it all works and doesn't make you want to throw the book across the room (and trust me, I absolute hate slow burn).
I had such a blast reading this story. There were moments that had me laughing out loud, moments that made me cringe (at the characters and the memories of my own teenage years), moments that reminded me how important it was to understand where I came from. The story takes place primarily in Indonesia and it was beautiful to watch Sharlot learn about her heritage and culture. It was truly a love letter to the author's native Indonesia and made me want to plan my own trip (to Indonesia as well as to my native China) soon.
Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto is available for preorder now and hits shelves September 27, 2022.