In an ideal world, this would be the first of a 10-book series. There’s certainly room here for at least one sequel and more.
Which doesn’t mean Jane Pek needs to do this. Series eventually run out of steam as one can only recycle the same characters and plots for so long. But I really loved this writer’s style, her protagonist, and the way she uses New York City.
But it’s not just that this was written by a city-dwelling millennial who loves mysteries (as Jane Pek clearly does, dropping reference after reference of canonical writers along with a fictional Sherlock-inspired Chinese creation). It’s also the way this book questions the virtues and vices of digital technology, particularly as it builds algorithms for romances. There’s a lot here that the writer plays with without being preachy or condescending, especially questioning the nature of how and why we seek romance in the first place (love? lust? religious/familial obligations?).
On top of that, Jane explores the world of Taiwanese descent folks whose matriarch came looking for the American Dream but didn’t necessarily find it. Some of the things Claudia (the protagonist) goes through with her mom and siblings are heartbreaking, teasing out what the immigrant and first generation stories respectively look like when things don’t go to plan. It gave the story even more depth.
There are some parts that strain credulity and others that aren’t fleshed out as much as they should be but this is a delightful rookie effort and I hope we see Claudia again and soon.