Every so often, when I’m stuck between two ARCs I turn to social media to help me decide what to read next. Misa Sugiura’s sophomore novel, This Time Will Be Different was the winner of a recent poll I had.
CJ Katsuyama is a Japanese-American teenager who lives with her mother, a high-powered executive and her aunt who runs the family flower shop. While there are countless things CJ isn’t sure of, the one thing she is sure of is that she loves working on floral arrangements with her aunt. So, when she learns that the family shop is being sold to a descendant of the man who cheated her family during World War II she decides to do something about it.
There are two things that I loved about This Time Will Be Different. The first was how relatable CJ was as a teenager, I found it refreshing that she was cynical when it came to matters of the heart as a result of her family’s complicated love history. Still it was nice to have a character be jaded when it comes to love yet still root for others and have crushes. I also appreciated how in the end CJ’s hasn’t been completely changed, she is open to love but not overly sentimental about it. The other thing I loved was the strong women in CJ’s life, I also liked how it the book highlights how CJ feels pressured as a teen to be amazing, especially seeing how well her mother has done for herself as a single and working parent.
This Time Will Be Different was an unexpected read for me, but in a positive way. It started off as a slow read for me, and initially I was only interested in learning more about CJ’s past as it was more interesting than her present day situation. However, I came away learning so much about the language and meaning of flowers in addition to the history of Asian Americans, particularly the Japanese and of the origins of the “model minority” myth. Even though all of this felt like an enormous information dump and at times the placement of these sections affected the pacing of the novel, I still was grateful that it gave me the context to critically look at CJ’s story.
An emotionally resonant story about family, community, and activism This Time Will Be Different shows that real life and people cannot be simplified into good or bad and that history can bring complications even several generations later.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.