During the month of May, Fierce Reads ran an AAPI Heritage Month giveaway and I obviously had to enter. I never expect to win giveaways, but I always like to pretend I will. Well, in this case, I was shocked and elated when I did win! It was a bundle of four ARCs and the first one to come up on my ARC TBR (which is completely separate from my regular TBR, obviously) was Brandon Hoàng’s debut, Gloria Buenrostro Is Not My Girlfriend.

Gary Võ has never been part of the in crowd. In fact, he’s basically been invisible. But when the most popular guy in school extends an invitation into the inner circle, Gary jumps at the chance. He just needs to steal something special from the most beautiful girl in school - Gloria Buenrostro. Over the course of the summer, Gary gets to know Gloria and he realizes she is not at all the stuck up girl who thinks she’s better than everyone like the rumors say. In fact, she's actually one of the kindest, most genuine and authentic individuals he has met. As the two get closer, Gary has to figure out if becoming a part of the popular crowd is worth losing the best friend he’s ever had.

People will likely disagree with me on this, but this story is a love story like none other. The friendship that develops and deepens between Gary and Gloria is truly a thing of beauty that should be put on display and studied. The way that these two learned how to communicate with each other and own up to their mistakes is a master class in how the world can heal itself.

The very first chapter of this book immediately drew me in and had me desperate to finish reading. A couple chapters further and I wanted to stop reading because the popular guys were just so unbelievably disgusting it made me want to scream. I powered through however because the story is told from Gary’s POV and his interactions with those guys were, thankfully, few and far between.

Gary and Gloria (who we see the most of throughout the book, though there are some recurring side characters) are both nuanced and complex people. Each of them have things going on in their lives that are incredibly relatable. While some aspects of the story aren’t things that are super common, the grounded nature of the main characters’ backstories kept me fully invested. This book is full of different kinds of relationships and how they grow and change over time. While the main focus is obviously Gary and Gloria, we are given glimpses of Gary's relationship with his sister, Gloria's relationship with her parents, and the pair's relationship with their respective friends.

Also, I don’t know who started it, but this trend of being overly descriptive about food - I love it and I hate it. I definitely left this book with a craving for burgers and Vietnamese food, so make sure you prepare yourself ahead of time.

Gloria Buenrostro Is Not My Girlfriend is Brandan Hoàng’s debut novel and, if this is what we can expect from him, I’m definitely looking forward to what comes next. Full of heart and friendship, this book left me wanting to call up my besties just to have a gab session and remind them that I love them. It’s available now so pick up your copy today!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."