Book Reviews

Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

You know when a book just seeps into your soul and touches something deep inside of your heart? That was This Time Will Be Different. Sometimes I feel like a book is just magic, the way it falls into your lap at exactly the right moment.


Miss Sugiura is back with another smartly drawn coming-of-age novel that weaves riveting family drama, surprising humor, and delightful romance into a story that will draw you in from the very first page.

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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

This Time Will Be Different is timely, genuine, and complex. If you’re in the mood for a book that tackles the way racism permeates our history, and the model minority myth – this is your book. Or if you want to read a book about a family with past grudges, a whole lot of honesty, and difficult questions about expectations, and disappointment, then this is your book. And if you want to read a book about a girl who finds love in unexpected places and who has to learn to take a leap of faith, this is your book.

Minority Myth & Racism Today

This Time Will Be Different asks us whether the history ever stays in the past. It questions whether we can be held accountable for the mistakes of our ancestors, in the very earth we walk on, and the words we use. And how we can make sense with, come to terms with, move on from, a past that has oppressed us, mistreated us, and continues to do so?

Another part of what I loved about This Time Will Be Different is the way it tackles issues of racism. Not only does it talk about the ways that certain white figures were able to accumulate enough assets to become wealthy, but it also handles the comments people make today. The ones I hear all the time – about the model minority myth, about the white savior complex, and about how when we speak out, we are accused of being ‘triggered’.

CJ’s Family & Her Mother-Daughter Relationship

Her mother, her aunt, and CJ for this complex, always changing, dynamic family unit. She’s stuck between her mother’s shrewd business sense and fierce ambition and her head-in-the-clouds aunt who is always jumping into the next passion project. And so her life has been defined around these two formidable women – one who teaches CJ to go with her heart, to trust in the magic around us, and another who wants CJ to be action oriented and focus on the future.

While I loved the ways Hannah, her aunt, and CJ understand each other – as well as the ways in which they differ, I really appreciated the way Sugiura describes CJ’s relationship to her mother. There’s so much to unpack here, that I can’t even do it justice, but one of the biggest themes is CJ’s feeling of disappointment. She knows her mother would love her to excel more and she feels like nothing she ever does makes her mom proud. And that just kind of twisted my gut because wow is that such a universal feeling – that we will never match up and CJ just puts it into words so beautifully in such a raw way.

CJ & Romance

And if that’s not enough, This Time Will Be Different delivers on the level of CJ’s life and friend/romance issues. Not only does her friendship go through a series of nose dives and hurdles based on grudges, jealousy, and the necessity for change. (Her best friend is lesbian, and there’s another lesbian side character with a lesbian relationship as well. There’s also a bisexual character). But CJ has to learn what her own stance is on love – how it oscillates between her mother and her aunt. 

Love is about vulnerability. It’s about taking the risks knowing that we could fail and our heart could get broken, and we could lose out on something precious. But it’s also about the endless possibilities, the moments we can treasure, and the feeling of opening up our heart. 


This Time Will Be Different is one of those books which succeeds on a variety of levels – as a book that tackles racism, first loves, and family dynamics. With little history lessons and memories from the past, This Time Will Be Different is a combination of moments. It asks us whether people can change, if we can forgive them, and how to move forwards. Can we become more than our past mistakes?

Find This Time Will Be Different on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is the last book that was like a lightbulb in your head?

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