A review by zinelib
Trade Me by Courtney Milan

hopeful fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


This we-can't-but-we-must romance is a quick read, which I appreciate because I'm still recovering from trying to slog through The Poppy War. (No particular shade to The Poppy War, just the unrelenting violence and degradation in a nearly 600-page book wasn't for me.) I found the we-can't-but tedious, but the emotional reveal was kind of okay? I'm making it sound like Trade Me is just meh, but really, the heroine Tina Chen, and to a lesser extent poor little rich boy Blake Reynolds are compelling characters. 

Tina, whose family (Falun Gong adherents) have survived political strife in China and are barely surviving economic strife in the US. When Blake makes a classist assumption at school, she calls him out on it. Their teacher and classmates rally around poor Blake after the vicious attack, but Blake eventually shuts them down, and tries to connect with Tina after class. It takes him a minute to get Tina to listen to or accept an offer she can't refuse: trade lives with him for the remainder of the semester, but she eventually does, if only so her sister Mabel can get the medication she needs. 

The story and resolution, including the protags' relationships with their parents (Blake's dad is a billionaire who takes pride in his assholery and Tina's mom is an immigration activist whose mantra is "don't talk to the pigs without a lawyer present.") is fun and funny. 

btw Tina's roommate and best friend is a trans woman. Other than Blake and his dad, I think all the main characters are BIPOC.