From Little Tokyo, With Love
By Sarah Kuhn
Published by Viking
What it’s about?
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?
What I think:
This is a fantastic modern Cinderella tale with a twist.
Orphaned Rika lives with her Aunt and two cousins who she regards as sisters. Working in the family Katsi restaurant in LA’s Little Tokyo, she doesn’t feel like she fits in. Biracial – Japanese/White American she is looked down upon by the community and called names, even by her family.
She’s also feisty- and that is putting it mildy. Rika has a fierce temper that she struggles to control. She prefers dark Japanese folktales to fairytales and she is committed to her Judo training.
The books is based around Little Tokyo’s Nikkei Week – the annual celebration of Japanese American culture. Belle and Rory, Rika’s stepsisters are princesses for the week and take part in a range of traditions that Rika wants no part of.
Nikkei Week is also a huge turning point for Rika. She discovers that her mother may not be dead after all and goes on a quest to find her. Along the way she actually begins to discover more about herself – her fears, her anger and more importantly a sense of self-acceptance as she begins to work out how she can stay true to herself and still fit in with her community.
She is accompanied on her journey by the utterly Henry ‘Hank’ Chen. He is also bi-racial and trying to work through his identity. A successful TV star, Henry is trying to break into films. He is auditioning for a role that will challenge Asian stereotypes and hopefully show people he is more than good-looking boy who can dance.Henry also suffers from panic attacks which are dealt with in a really natural and realistic way.
I really enjoyed this book. It shows that there is a place for both princesses and warriors and that young girls can be both. It highlights the challenges of identity and sense of community that some young people, particularly those of a mixed heritage feel.
This is fun and fast-paced with fantastic characters and a fascinating insight into Japanese American culture. I really enjoyed it.
Thank you to Viking/ Penguin Teen for my gifted copy and to Kaleidoscopic Tours for inviting me to be a part of this fab blog tour