Danny Kim is the frontman of a Seattle indie rock band. He's also struggling to graduate from college. After rudely hitting on a cute guy at one of his concerts, he gets in even deeper trouble when the guy proves to be the TA of his accounting class.
Though Jiyoon clearly would prefer never to see Danny again, a rough breakup brings them unexpectedly together and a tentative friendship forms. But Danny can barely keep his band afloat and pass all his classes, nevermind learn how to make time for what is rapidly becoming the most important person in his life.
The Trouble is a contemporary m/m aromantic comedy and erotica. I picked it up because Claudie read it and liked it a lot. I’d never heard of it before, but Danny is aromantic and mentions this several times explicitly and I’m so here for that. Not only that but all the main characters are queer and the three most important characters are Korean-American.
It was a really fun read. Danny is just the right balance between a jerk and a sweetheart and his relationship with Jiyoon is delightful.
That said, it did suffer from the fact that I don’t like to read erotica. That’s not really the story’s fault, of course. That’s just a mismatch between me and the story. As much as I would have preferred a fade-to-black, I do think the scenes are important because I think Danny is the first explicitly allosexual aromantic main character I’ve read.
It’s great to see a main character who’s allosexual aromantic and to see his aromanticism not just explicitly acknowledged, but respected. After Danny tells him, Jiyoon makes it a point to research it and specifically ask Danny what his boundaries are and what he’s okay with to see whether they could make their relationship work, and, while Danny has some misgivings because he’s aro, Defore is clear on the point that he has those misgivings because of the aromisic way in which people have responded.
The aromance is really sweet, filled with misunderstandings and difficult situations, from the moment they meet to the resolution. Yet, despite that, the situations are entirely understandable. For example: the way Jiyoon and Danny’s goals and personalities are so different. The fact that Danny is aromantic and Jiyoon is alloromantic is never cast as a serious barrier to their relationship, except in Danny’s mind. What are barriers to their relationship are Jiyoon’s need for stability and Danny’s… more lacksadaisical approach to life and the fact that Jiyoon is initially Danny’s TA.
And as much as Danny is the kind of ass who’d hit on a guy by dissing that man’s boyfriend, he’s also the kind of guy who refuses to do something to endanger Jiyoon’s job as a TA.
Watching him and Jiyoon grow closer is a lot of fun, especially watching Jiyoon slowly warm up to Danny’s music. I just… I really liked their relationship and how it developed.
I also liked the friendships between Danny and his band members, especially Sam, his best friend since forever. Their friendly banter is a lot of fun and the tensions in the band because they all have different personalities is great too.
And, kind of catnip for me? Jiyoon and the novella as a whole explicitly acknowledge that people learn differently and that’s okay. Danny struggles in his Basic Accounting class and Jiyoon tutors him. Watching Jiyoon tutor Danny’s confidence… It’s very relatable. It’s half of the work I do and I loved that Defore chose to focus on that aspect of tutoring.
It makes sense to, but even then Defore could also have condensed the scenes or left them out and… didn’t. It warmed my heart to see these snippets of tutoring.
I’m… fairly sure the comedy didn’t work for me the way it was intended to because I keep wanting to say I’m not sure it worked. I don’t know if that’s because I got something different from what I was expecting or whether it’s because the comedy just didn’t work for me. (Some of it was… allosexual-focused, so I got where it was supposed to be funny and comedic but still didn’t get the joke. It’s… hard to explain.) I did think it was a really fun read, though. I would love to see this made into a film, actually. It’d be a blast to watch just as it was to read it.
It’s a bit hard to talk about this book because it just wasn’t what I was expecting at all and I’m still unpacking what I did get. I loved the conversations Jiyoon and Danny had about their relationship and the way they hung out. I loved that Danny’s aromanticism was so front-and-centre and yet was never the barrier that Danny feared it’d be. I loved that their miscommunications felt genuine.
If you’re sex-repulsed or not interested in erotica, I would (sadly) recommend passing on this. The sex is explicit and difficult to skim. But, if you’re okay with erotica, it’s a fun aromantic comedy and I’d happily recommend it.
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