August 30, 2021

Book Review: The Heart Principle

I basically started reading The Heart Principle the very instant that I was granted access to an early electronic review copy because I’ve been dying to get my hands on the third installment of The Kiss Quotient series for quite some time now. I’m pleased to report that, while it hasn’t quite dethroned The Kiss Quotient as my favorite, it was a really, really, really excellent addition to the series.

Our heroine Anna Sun is a gifted violinist whose career took off considerably after a video of one of her performances goes viral on YouTube. But now she’s dealing with the anxiety and burnout of her many attempts to play the music with the connection and passion she once felt. On top of her career woes, Anna’s boyfriend decides he wants them to try an open relationship before they commit to marriage. And so, angry, hurt, stressed but still determined to put her best foot forward, Anna decides that she’ll be open to one-night stands. Cue her app match-up with Quan Diep, a handsome tattooed motorcyclist who has insecurities of his own. Their original plans fall apart more than once, but their blossoming relationship opens Anna up to a world of unconditional acceptance and care. But when Anna is called upon to help out in a time of great crisis, will the familial expectations end up tearing her and their budding relationship apart?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The Heart Principle is different from the other books in this series. While all three books share Hoang’s authorial style when it comes to character development and relationships (romantic, familial, etc), as well as plot progression, this novel feels heavier. (And upon further reflection, that has a lot to do with the emotional weightlifting readers do with Anna and Quan all throughout.) There’s a very raw honesty that permeates the narrative; it goes so far as to feel quite melancholy and stressful at certain points. Despite the difference in overall feel, The Heart Principle was still captivating (as proven by the fact that I read it all in one night since I was driven by the need to see how it would all turn out!

I really loved this novel. The plot – from romantic developments to individual struggles – was compelling and immersive. The characters – from our main couple to the secondary characters (including individuals making cameos and others I didn’t particularly care for) – felt like real people who leapt off the page. And the relationships – from familial to friendly to romantic – were very much the same. The emotional beats that made me feel so many ways. I laughed. I cried. I got angry. I was afraid. And all those feelings manifested with a rare intensity too.

What really sticks out to me the most, however, is how I felt connected to Anna herself. I’ve never been in exactly the same situations (I’m not a violinist, and fortunately, I haven’t faced a similar familial crisis). But the emotional upheaval she goes through? The thoughts she grapples with regularly? The way she interacts with the world and other folks? All those things I’ve experienced in a similar form or fashion in my own life. To see them so acutely reflected in fiction was a surprise; to feel seen by their depiction was startling but not an unwelcome response. This had a particular effect on my experience of and my attachment to this novel, that’s for sure.

I can’t recommend diving into The Heart Principle as your first Helen Hoang read (partially because of the foundational quality of the two books before it, and partially because of its overall heaviness and subject matter). But I would say that it’s worth the read for sure, especially if you’re already an established fan of Hoang’s other work. I absolutely devoured The Heart Principle. It’s the kind of story that really puts your heart through an emotional roller coaster, but leaves you feeling hopeful and heart-full by the end. I loved my time reading it, and it’s definitely cemented Hoang as one of my favorite writers.

(For your reference, I’m including the same list of content warnings I mentioned in my Goodreads review. I’ve included most of the major ones, but I apologize in advance if I missed any — anxiety and panic attacks, autism, cancer, sterility, toxic family members, family member with severe illness, burnout, autistic burnout, reckless endangerment of self, suicide ideation, ableism.)

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient #3) by Helen Hoang
Previous Books in the Series: The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test
Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Source: e-galley received from the publisher via NetGalley


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