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Cover reveal! For fans of Frankly in Love and Tokyo Ever After comes a romantic dramedy about finding love and reconnecting with your culture in the most surprising ways. First Love Language by Stefany Valentine is coming to shelves January 14, 2025!

Taiwanese American Catie Carlson has never fit in with her white family. As much as she loves her stepmom and stepsister, she yearns to understand more about her culture and find her biological mother. 

So Catie is shocked when an opportunity comes knocking on her door: Her summer spa coworker, Toby, says he’ll teach her Mandarin. In exchange, she needs to teach him how to date so he can finally work up the courage to ask out his crush. The only problem is that Catie doesn’t actually have any dating experience. But she can fake it.

With her late father’s copy of The Five Love Languages and all his annotated notes, Catie becomes the perfect dating coach. Or so she thinks. As she gets dangerously close to Toby and to finding out what really happened to her biological mom, she realizes that learning the language of love might be tougher than she thought.

Stefany Valentine’s debut novel is both a fresh, fun romance as well as a profound, luminous story about grief, family, transracial adoption, and what it means to truly follow your heart.

Scroll down to see the cover and read a sneak peek. And remember to preorder your copy!

Cover design by Mary Claire Cruz; cover illustrations by Babeth Lafon

If home is where the heart is, then a broken home must mean that a heart is broken too. Especially right now since I’m supposed to be leaving for Salt Lake City. Instead of packing, I’m lying on my stomach while carpet fibers tickle that part of my waistline where my Del Rey High shirt has risen. No matter how many times I’ve vacuumed this floor, it still smells like cigarettes from the previous renters. My wrist cramps from holding my head up. I have boxes to take down to the car, yet I can’t stop staring at the Polaroid of my chubby three-year-old self in the arms of a biological mother whose name is about the only thing I remember.

Ya-Fang and I smile for the camera in front of a pagoda. The pillars are as red as the lanterns lining the streets. The doorways are accented by a gold so vibrant that even in this outdated photograph, it reflects the sunlight of a bright Taiwan day. But where exactly was this picture taken? Was it in Taipei, the city where I was born? Or was it Keelung, the city Ya-Fang grew up in?

No matter how badly I want to ask Ya-Fang, I can’t. I was five when she and Dad divorced. She stayed behind in Taipei, and we left for America. And it’s not like I can ask Dad why they split either. When I was five, he told me it was so that I could experience America. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that experiencing America is a bribe a parent tells a child. There’s something more. Something so complex, I might be able to understand it only now. But I’ll never be able to ask him, because he’s been dead for two years now. His body rests at Sunshine Cemetery—which is a bit of an oxymoron, in my opinion.

“Mavis! I don’t want to keep having this conversation.” My adoptive mom’s voice seeps through the apartment’s thin walls. “It’s just for the summer. We’ll be back in time for your senior year. I promise.”

“If it’s just for the summer, then why did we sell all the furniture?” my sister bites back.

If I’ve heard them fight once, I’ve heard them a thousand times. For now, I’d rather focus on the resemblances Ya-Fang and I share than listen to Mom and Mavis. Between our heart-shaped faces and petite noses, there’s no doubt that I look more like Ya-Fang than I do my adopted family. After all, Mom and Mavis share the same blood. Even their voices sound alike—Mom with her raspy alto and Mavis with the same but just a tad more nasally.

“You know why.” Mom’s voice filters through my bedroom door. “I’m doing the best I can for all of us.”

Mom sold our furniture to pay off our rent or else her credit score would’ve dropped. Besides, it’s not like we can find a storage unit to keep our bed frames and couches. Those are hundreds of dollars a month. Mom has just enough money to drive us out to Utah. Assuming the car doesn’t break down along the way.

Mavis doesn’t say more. Instead of a response, the front door opens and slams with so much force that the entire unit rattles. My closet door even swings open.

I used to think my room was haunted. Between the slightest drafts opening the closet, the lights flickering in the bathroom, and the strange noises that turned out to be our neighbor’s cats, I’d constantly tell Mom that we needed to move out. But I’d meant somewhere else in San Diego where Casper and his buddies wouldn’t haunt us. Not Mormon City, Utah.

I sigh and shut my baby book. Mavis probably went out to the car, which means it’s time for me to start packing again. I rise to my feet, carrying the questions I never asked Dad while he was alive: Why did you really divorce Ya-Fang? If you’d stayed together, would I still be destined to move to Utah? But most importantly: Why did you have Andrea adopt me instead of giving me back to my bio mom?

Because of the adoption, my American birth certificate doesn’t even say Ya-Fang Linn anymore. Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure if her Western name is spelled with one n or two. If it weren’t for the memories printed into this photo album, I’d have nothing tethering me to her at all. Guess I’m just lucky like that.

Penguin Teen