A few months ago, I received This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura in my Illumicrate box. It’s such a beautiful copy that I’ve really treasured, and I finally got around to reading it. It’s safe to say this is a new favourite contemporary of mine!
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
Rep: Japanese-American MC, bisexual Japanese-American love interest, several Asian-American side characters, lesbian side character
CWs: racism, discussions of internment camps in WW2, homophobia, teen pregnancy, abortion
This is both a beautiful and a very insightful read. The writing style is excellent, and it’s a book that doesn’t shy away from deeper and more serious themes, while also paying attention to the lighter, more positive aspects of life.
I loved everything about it: the slow, steady pace that made this a very relaxing read, the content matter that was handled with such care, and the characters, who were all perfectly flawed and well-rounded.
CJ is a very flawed, very human main character, who shows perfectly how activism is never perfect, because there are always things your missing and biases you’re unaware of and that you have to work on, but that doesn’t make your activism less worth the effort. It shows how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of if you’re going to succeed.
I learned a lot about Japanese-American history that I wasn’t previously aware of, and there were some really valuable discussions about the history of institutional racism and how this affects different groups of people differently. And there was also a lot of attention for intersectionality, especially in terms of what it means to be a woman of colour and what it means to be queer.
It’s at its core a book about standing up for what you believe in, but also about how everyone had their flaws and their biases, and how important it is to keep working on yourself, but also to give people room to improve. Because you never know what’s going on with people in their private lives. It’s about what can be forgiven and what can’t, shouldn’t be.
But aside from these more serious topics, I also really loved the lush, romantic setting of the flower shop, and the budding romance between CJ and one of the side characters, who was the dorkiest, most lovable love interest I’ve read in a long time. This book tackled so many things, and it never felt like too much.
Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR?
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