Published by Scholastic Press in May 2019
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Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.
She's obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi's entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi's estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.
When she arrives in Japan, she's met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city's outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival -- and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is a story filled with family expectations, family history, and learning to balance all of that while still being true to yourself, with some romance thrown in.
I found I Love You So Mochi to be an interesting twist on the “tiger parenting” stereotype. Instead of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, Kimi was expected to become a great painter, a dream her mother gave up to raise her. In the story, Kimi has lost her motivation to paint and ends up going to visit her estranged grandparents on her mother’s side in Japan. Kimi hopes that by learning about her family history, she can find her artistic inspiration. Being in another country also aids in avoiding her mother as she tries to figure out what her next steps are post-high school.
Although Akira, Kimi’s love interest, plays a large role in helping Kimi explore Japan and was fun to read about, I didn’t find their romance to be very significant. I wouldn’t necessarily say I Love You So Mochi is a YA romance. I think the story would work just as well with a close friend.
Instead, I Love You So Mochi is definitely all about family, and my favorite parts were when Kimi interacted with her grandparents. Seeing her learn about her family history and her mother’s childhood, makes me want to learn more about my own family history. It was truly touching seeing Kimi and her grandparent’s relationship grow from nothing into something where they’re supportive of each other’s goals.
The twist on “tiger parenting” was both good and bad for me. I enjoyed seeing something different other than an Asian parent pushing their child to become a doctor or lawyer. (Although, Akira was the opposite. He wants to be a doctor, but also feels obligated to help his uncle with his mochi stand.) What frustrated me to no end was the idea that Kimi’s interest in fashion was just a hobby. Fashion is an art in a different form and is a billion-dollar industry in the US. Anyway, that was the one thing that irked me while reading this story.
Overall, I really enjoyed I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn. It was fun reading a Japanese-American story and seeing my culture featured on the pages of a book. I highly recommend I Love You So Mochi to anyone that enjoys stories with strong family elements or simply wants to read something set in modern-day Japan.