Sarah Kuhn has done it again. After the fabulous I Love You So Mochi – which I adored to pieces – I shouldn’t have been surprised. But Kuhn hits it out of the park again! From Little Tokyo, with Love is a tender book about family secrets, feeling like an Outsider, and the magic of anger. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale–being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business–she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold.
All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness–searching for clues about her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with a cute actor, and maybe…finally finding a sense of belonging.
But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, panic attack
From Little Tokyo, with Love is a love letter to those who feel like they don’t belong. Like you’re on one wavelength, and everyone else is on another. Like you don’t fit in with your family and – as someone who is a transracial adoptee – this hit HARD. It’s a story about the importance of believing you’re deserving of a happy ending. That a fairy tale, that we might see ourselves in, could belong to us. I’m not going to lie, these two character developments and themes that Rika struggles with, got me in the feels.
When Rika has a moment of emotional vulnerability where she hopes that, if she found her mom, they could belong to each other? That hurt me deeply in the ways it resonated with the cracks of my heart. While I am not biracial like Rika, I felt her feelings of isolation and not belonging so astutely. And From Little Tokyo, with Love is a love letter to the importance of being able to see ourselves in something.
At the same time, I loved Rika because her struggle with anger, feeling monstrous, and feeling out of control was so relatable. Those around her see her anger, her rage, her protection, as a negative quality. Because of that, Rika feels almost monstrous in the ways her rage at injustice, at her family’s pain, can take over. I deeply empathized with this and the ways women are taught to suppress their anger because of its negative association. Don’t even get me started on the cultural layers shaming Rika’s rage.
All in all, From Little Tokyo, with Love is a book that delivers swoons, a powerful message about anger, and an empathetic journey to feel like you belong. Rika’s story is about embracing ourselves, believing we deserve happiness, and to acknowledge our power, anger, and love. We need anger to fuel the battle to see what is wrong. I was not prepared for how much I wold love From Little Tokyo, with Love or how much it would reach into me and soothe my heart.
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