They’re just wildflowers, doing their thing, and they’re beautiful. Be like them, sweet pea. Just be you and be happy.

Misa Sugiura, This Time Will Be Different

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2019
Format: Audio
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

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. 

I haven’t heard so much about this book, but it was a really fun read and I’m happy I got around to reading it!

This follows CJ, a Japanese-American who loves working in her aunt’s flower shop. The shop has so much history, and was started by her grandparents who were sent to an internment camp during WWII. However, the shop hasn’t been as profitable as her family had hoped, and now CJ’s mom is determined to sell it to the same family who ripped off CJ’s grandparents when they were forced to sell the shop in the 1940s.

I really enjoyed CJ as a character, even though she could be a bit selfish at times. CJ loves working with flowers, making arrangements, and picking out the perfect flowers for the perfect occasion. This was a really fun hobby to read about, and you could tell the author had knowledge in this area as well (or if she didn’t, she certainly did her research). Not only that, but CJ is very persistent and doesn’t give up. This made me really root for her throughout the story. The entire time, I was hoping she and her aunt would find a way to save the flower shop, and that she would find a way to expose the racists hoping to buy it.

While this is a fun book, I liked that it also dove into hard topics as well. I learned a lot about Japanese-American history while reading this, and the author did a great job to show how the internment is still affecting these families nearly 80 years later. This book is rich with Japanese culture, and was probably my favorite part.

Along with that, the author also uses this story to discuss homophobia, women’s reproductive rights, and racism in America. CJ’s best friend is queer, and I liked the way the author portrayed CJ’s relationship with her. While CJ will always be there for her friend, she also recognizes that she can’t relate to her in the same way other queer friends can, and that she has straight privilege. Along with that, this book really dives into the repercussions of white privilege in America. It was explained in a way that was easy to understand, which is great since this book is targeted towards younger readers. It also discusses Asian stereotypes, and how they originated.

I think a downfall for me in this book was the love triangle. While it wasn’t horrible, I do feel like both of the love interests just felt cliché. We have Shane, who is so forgettable I honestly forgot he existed until now. He is the popular boy at school who all the girls are pining over, and so obviously CJ is smitten by him. But then, we have Owen, the nerdy history geek who has somehow also gained CJ’s attention. We have read about both of those characters before, and I think both of us can already guess who CJ chooses.

However, even though I didn’t love the romance, I think this book did make up for those relationships by exploring a complex family dynamic. CJ has been raised by a single mother, who has always been dedicated to her work, even when CJ feels like she is betraying her heritage by doing so. I had a love-hate relationship with CJ’s mom, much like CJ did. While I knew she was just trying her best, she was also a frustrating character. It felt very authentic, because in real life money is a very driving force.

All in all, this was a great book and I am surprised I haven’t heard more people talk about it. It was the perfect blend of cute and serious, and was just overall a very entertaining read. I devoured it in just 2 or 3 days via audiobook.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

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