Blog Tour Review: Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Hello, friends! I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes today for Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto on the blog tour hosted by TBR & Beyond Tours.

Thanks to Delacorte Press for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

Well, That Was Unexpected
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 27 September 2022
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rep: Indonesian

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

An outrageous, laugh-out-loud YA rom-com about a girl who’s whisked from LA to her mother’s native Indonesia to get back to her roots and finds herself fake-dating the son of one of the wealthiest families there, from the author of Dial A for Aunties.

After Sharlot Citra’s mother catches her in a compromising position, she finds herself whisked away from LA to her mother’s native Indonesia. It’ll be exactly what they both need. Or so her mother thinks.

When George Clooney Tanuwijaya’s father (who is obsessed with American celebrities) fears he no longer understands how to get through to his son, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

To ensure that their children find the right kind of romantic partner, Sharlot’s mother and George’s father do what any good parent would do: they strike up a conversation online, pretending to be their children.

When the kids find out about their parents’ actions, they’re horrified. Not even a trip to one of the most romantic places on earth could possibly make Sharlot and George fall for each other. But as the layers peel back and the person they thought they knew from online is revealed, the truth becomes more complicated. As unlikely as it may seem, did their parents manage to find their true match after all?

📚 BUY A COPY!

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: The first thought that popped into my mind when I saw this book was: it’s finally here! A novel published by a big pub house with Indonesian characters, set in Indonesia and written by an Indonesian author. I was beyond thrilled because I feel like I’ve been waiting for ages for a story with Indonesian rep to exist in the mainstream and here we have it. This YA rom-com is sweet, hilarious, personally relatable and essentially a love letter to Indonesia and I loved it the more I read it! It was funny and bitingly sarcastic, it was witty and entertaining and I absolutely loved seeing Indonesia so colourfully represented in a mainstream novel.

This story takes us from the nation’s mega-city capital, Jakarta, all the way to my lovely island home and popular tourist destination, Bali. Although this book centres on the Chinese-Indonesian experience in Indo, as well as being told from a very wealthy and privileged perspective, there was so much about the characters’ experiences in this story that resonated with me because for the first 26 years of my life I had a pretty complicated relationship with Indonesia too, wherein I never really knew the country and it never felt like home. It’s kind of funny but reading this book made me realise how much this place has come to feel like home now and it made my heart happy knowing that others can experience Indonesia through a story that’s brimming with so much love for the country!

“You used the wrong Chinese characters and ended up naming me Correct Bacteria.”

The tone of the writing initially comes across as quite young (I’d say the younger end of YA) rather than late-teens, despite there being a lot of cursing (lol), and at times the writing was slightly repetitive but the further I read, the less it bothered me because there was so much to love! It’s safe to say that Sutanto captured the traffic-filled chaos of city life and the touristy and culturally rich island life perfectly. I loved how she so accurately depicted our huge coffee culture (we really love it), and it was thrilling to read about all the locations I’ve often frequented (Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen is drool-worthy!) and the activities I used to do a lot when I was younger (white water rafting is amazing). It defo hits different when reading about your home! 😂 Sutanto’s pride in being Indonesian really came through the writing and while we see the good and the great about Indo, it’s not all roses and I appreciate how she highlights issues that still need to be tackled, particularly the heavily patriarchal societal expectations towards women, toxic masculinity, and the lack of LGBTQIA+ rights in the country.

“I’m torn between pride and shame. Pride that I am connected by blood to this rich, complex culture that has so passionately fought for the rights of its people. Shame because I’d been so ignorant.”

The story is broken into three parts and is told from Sharlot’s and George’s perspectives. While I took to George quickly, I have to admit that I initially struggled with Sharlot. She grew up in America and had never been nor was ever taught about Indonesia, and when she first arrives, she comes across as extremely judgemental. She also held a lot of anger/bitterness towards her mum which was off-putting. Thankfully, Sharlot grows a lot as she spends time with her family in Indo, learns about the history and culture, and realises how rude she’s been and how wrong her preconceived notions are. It was great to see that growth and I really enjoyed watching her fall in love with Indonesia. In contrast, I immediately liked George and though his whole situation was mortifying it was also hilarious! He’s essentially this big kid who’s saddled with the heavy weight of expectations that come from being the only male in one of the richest Indonesian conglomerate families. He’s extremely smart but shy and insecure, and honestly, he’s such a big softie!

“George Clooney. He uses that voice, the one that probably every Asian kid knows, the one that reaches deep into our central nervous system and makes all our senses prick up. There’s so much weight behind it—disappointment, quiet anger, and an ocean’s worth of expectation that threatens to crush me.”

This rom-com had the fake-dating trope and with some forced proximity and a snoopy journo tagging along on their adventures, their fauxmance basically gets catapulted into the limelight almost immediately. Their interactions were painfully awkward at first but I loved how they gradually open up with each other and form a solid friendship before it naturally, and perhaps unexpectedly, grew into something romantic. It took a little while to get there, especially with Sharlot being determined to hate George from the start despite finding him very attractive, but when they do, the romance is incredibly sweet and swoony and they really complemented each other so well.

“…wow, I was really not expecting any of this to happen, and isn’t that just the best goddamn feeling in the world.”

Other than their romance, I really loved the many relationships that exist in this story. George’s relationship with his massive Tanuwijaya family, while complicated, was fun to read about. I loved how close he was with his sister, Eleanor Roosevelt—who is an absolute treasure, his father, Eighth Aunt and even Nainai. His family are a lot and very typically Indonesian with their meddlesome nature and well-intentioned though completely intrusive and inappropriate questions. It was all so incredibly relatable! 😂 On Sharlot’s side, I love the bond she forms with her cousin Kiki, who’s a total troublemaker but also hilarious and it was nice to see Shar form that connection with a family she never met or knew much about.

“Bow-chicka-wow-wow,” Kiki sings.
“Okay, gonna hang up now.”
“Wait, gege! Eleanor shoves Kiki aside and puts her face all the way up against the phone so all I can see is one eye and half of her nose.
“Yeah?”
When she next speaks, she says in her most serious voice, “Wear a condom.”
“Oh god, be a normal
thirteen-year-old,” I say, and hang up on the peals of laughter coming from her end.”

Overall, I had a really good time reading this YA rom-com! It’s the perfect fun summer read that will have you cracking up but it also has a touching story about mothers and daughters and family. Sutanto is an author that I’ve been meaning to try for a while and although this is probably quite different to her adult novels, I’m even more excited to read them now that I’ve given one of her books a try.

I grew up going back and forth between Jakarta and Singapore and consider both places my homes. I was fortunate enough to do my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, which is surely one of the most gorgeous places in the world.

I am passionate about women’s rights and diversity in publishing. I regularly do giveaways where I critique queries or the first few pages, and I am especially interested in helping writers from marginalized communities. If you are a writer from a marginalized community, do hit me up! I love hearing from other writers, even if it’s just to say a quick hello.

Author’s Socials:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook

Have you read Well, That Was Unexpected or is it on your TBR?

9 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review: Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

  1. Great review, Dini. I am so happy to hear that this was a great representation of Indonesia and it’s people. I will have to pick this one up as I know nothing about Indonesian culture.

    Liked by 1 person

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