True Love and Other Impossible Odds | Christina Li


Coming May 14, 2024 from Quill Tree Books; 400 pages

Content Warning: Homophobia, death of a parent

About the Author: “Christina Li is the award-winning author of children’s books Clues to the Universe, which was a Washington Post summer book club pick, and Ruby Lost and Found, which was an NPR and New York Public Library Best Book of the Year and recognized for the Asian Pacific American Librarians’ Award for Best Children’s Literature. She is also the author of the forthcoming YA title True Love and Other Impossible Odds (from HarperCollins / Quill Tree Books), as well as an adult literary debut, The Manor of Dreams (from Simon and Schuster / Avid Reader Press).

She graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Economics and Public Policy. She loves to daydream about characters and drink too much jasmine green tea. She grew up in the Midwest and California but now calls New York home” (Bio from author’s website).

Find Christina Li on the following platforms:

“But I am no longer that person. I can’t be. I’m smarting, and I feel raw, but at last it is all out there. At least the truth is laid between us and that is all I can give: my honesty.” 

Grace Tang has done the impossible, and only in her first semester of college: she has invented an algorithm that can solve for true love. Half of campus is dating their algorithm-matched partner, and Grace herself is matched with Jamie, a cute boy she literally ran into at the beginning of the semester. There are skeptics, led by Grace’s irritable coworker, Julia, who despises the algorithm so much that she wrote a scathing op-ed about it for their university’s newspaper. Grace doesn’t mind the disbelievers, though, especially when she and Jamie officially become a couple. However, the algorithm’s success doesn’t help Grace heal from the anguish of senior year. Still mourning her mother’s passing, she heads home every weekend to keep her father company in their quiet, grief-drenched home. Somehow, she ends up spending more time with Julia, who might not be so terrible after all, with her dark eyes and comforting presence. With her world constantly shifting around her, will Grace be able to survive her freshman year of college, and also, just maybe, crack the code for true love? 

Christina Li first caught my eye in the anthology Study Break: 11 Tales from Orientation to Graduation, with her short story “Begin Again,” a piece about two girls falling for each other as they work on a group project during their last semester of college. So when I heard about her YA debut, I knew I had to tune in! 

I’m particularly fond of coming-of-age stories set in college, a time that can often feel lonely, disconcerting, and scary. It’s comforting to read a book where the characters face the woes of university and, despite the odds, end up okay in the end. A lot of Grace’s struggles felt so relatable: she’s stressed about making friends, worried about asking her professor for a letter of recommendation, and has to deal with the horror that is group project conflicts. It is no wonder that Grace seeks solace in her logical algorithm—after the unpredictable grief of senior year, and now the chaos of college, she wants something certain. Even though I have to admit that I was skeptical of the algorithm from the start, I couldn’t help but root for its success, especially because Jamie seemed like her perfect match! Julia does steal the spotlight when she is introduced (especially if you like brooding love interests!), and the slow(ish) burn between Grace and Julia is so fun to read. While Grace’s romantic pursuits are undeniably a key part of her growth, I think the highlight of the book is her gradual realization that she doesn’t have to pretend to be her immigrant parents’ perfect daughter anymore, because in reality, she hasn’t been that girl in a long time. In particular, Grace is troubled by memories of her late mother being incredibly homophobic to her estranged best friend, which leads to her wondering if her mother would’ve loved this newly discovered version of herself. This complex grief seemed like the hardest part of the book to write, but I think Li did a wonderful job of poignantly rendering the love Grace feels for her mother, despite it all. I couldn’t recommend True Love and Other Impossible Odds more—it is the college coming-of-age story of my dreams!

Pine Reads Review would like to thank SparkPoint Studio & Quill Tree Books for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes may be subject to change before final publication.

Aruna Sreenivasan, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director


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