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In an era when social media platforms like TikTok made viral content extremely easy (look for the pet trend “Watermelon Sugar” Hi !, you’ll thank me later), Helen Hoang’s The principle of the heart answers the question: what happens when the fame you never wanted keeps you from having a career you love?

When Anna Sun, a professional violinist, goes viral on YouTube for a performance, it changes her life forever … but not for the reasons she anticipates. Not only is she blocked by the musicians, but it’s clear that her family and her boyfriend Julian don’t get it – so she decides to go into therapy. When Julian decides he wants an open relationship before agreeing to settle down, Anna, who is fed up with pleasing everyone but herself, goes to a dating app and meets our lead man Quan. Diep – which readers may recognize in Hoang’s previous books. “Stop hiding. Stop pleasing people. Revenge on Julian. Learn who I am. Empowerment,” Anna said at one point, remembering to follow the plan.

What was meant to be an unconditional one-night stand, however, turns into a tangled tapestry of intoxicating makeup sessions, watching animal documentaries together and divulging the types of secrets that border the couple’s territory, which both characters have. to reconsider their decision to use sex as a band-aid for their inner turmoil. For one thing, Anna has privacy issues and has never had a one-night stand before. And Quan, who recently recovered from a serious illness, has his own body image issues. But together they understand each other in ways that no one else has tried or cares enough about and so a new kind of intimacy flourishes between them, Hoang style.

Yes The kiss quotient teaches privacy and The Bride Test feed him, so The principle of the heart pushes his characters not to be ashamed of it. It’s only when Anna and Quan stop pressuring each other that they can really let go in every sense of the word. I would have loved to see Quan and Anna come out of their bubble and interact together in more social settings, but it’s just as good to see them learn from each other without outside influences (although her family is certainly trying) .

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Hoang’s new romance is sexually positive, but it’s important to show how it neutralizes social pressures around physical intimacy. When Anna says no to a sexual act, she thinks that “it might be the hardest thing I have ever done. But I did. Drunk with power.”

Social pressures go beyond privacy too. When Anna learns that she may be autistic, Quan is the one there for her, while her sister dismisses him as a call for attention. And after a personal tragedy sends Anna home to a family that loves her but struggles to understand her, Quan is the one who becomes her refuge and helps her through autistic exhaustion. But when her family has other plans for her, which don’t include Quan, she has to figure out how to follow her heart and speak for herself.

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of reading this book is the visceral reaction to seeing other people mistreating Anna and Quan because of their differences. We want to protect them while we collectively mourn their loss of power. Much of the story manifests the act of mourning. There is the literal mourning of a family member, but there is also the mourning of the loss of self and identity – Quan for the life he had before his illness and Anna for the person he had. she could have been, if she had received the proper support earlier in life.

But like the last stage of grief, acceptance isn’t too far off for these characters. It’s an emotional, yet fulfilling journey to see Anna and Quan not only come to terms with their body’s limitations and their health, but also wield enough power to stand up for themselves. In fact, it’s obvious that while Anna’s autism is a turning point for her, it’s not meant to define her or the story; if anything, it’s just the missing piece of the puzzle that allows her to love herself fully without a nagging sense of uncertainty. “No one should need a diagnosis to be compassionate to themselves… Maybe for now, just this once, I can experience a different kind of love. Something nicer.”

Having read all three of Helen Hoang’s books, I can confidently say that she is a perfect trainer of moving novels, with sweet and honest love stories paired with a euphoric vapor. The principle of the heart wears his heart on his sleeve. Although it is thematically heavier than her previous books, Hoang’s writing exudes the kind of kinetic power and acceptance that feels free because she lets her characters come to fruition – even when those who hold them back. surround can not.

Kamrun Nesa is a New York-based freelance writer. His work has been featured in The Washington Post, commotion, PopSugar, and HelloGiggles.

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