Since I seemed to have found a strange sort of obsession with fluffy teen romances in my mid-20s, I have been reading more and more Young Adult Romance novels. And this year, I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn really hit the sweet spot for me!
An absolute sweet treat, I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is a delightful, heartfelt story about discovering your identity, reconnecting with your roots, mending bridges between your family members, and finding love along the way.
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~ Synopsis: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn ~
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.
In I Love You So Mochi, author Sarah Kuhn has penned a delightfully sweet and irrepressibly funny novel that will make you squee at the cute, cringe at the awkward, and show that sometimes you have to lose yourself in something you love to find your Ultimate self.
~ I Love You So Mochi Book Review ~
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn begins with Kimi, our adorable protagonist who has a talent for painting but secretly does not find joy in it. For her, art is a way to connect with her mother, who has planned Kimi’s entire life down to the t so that Kimi can get into the most prestigious art school and become one of the most renowned Asian American artists the world has ever known.
Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned when Kimi’s mother finds out Kimi has dropped out of her art classes and spent all her time designing clothes, something her mother considers a “silly hobby”.
This, of course, leads to a massive fallout between mother and daughter, prompting Kimi to travel all the way to Japan to visit her estranged maternal grandparents and figure out who she wants to be without her mother’s expectations looming over her.
What I loved the most about this book, was how wholesome and innocent the story was. Kimi is a sweet, bubbly teenager who has lived a very sheltered life, following closely behind her mother’s footsteps.
At the start of the book, she is a very naive, clueless girl who daydreams about cute clothes and cute boys. Her first solo trip to Japan is understandably nerve-wracking, and she is constantly making culturally inappropriate social blunders.
However, I loved how, over the course of the story, she grew into a confident young woman who knew what she wanted from her life, who was daring enough to confess her feelings to her crush and take risks and fall in love, and most importantly, a woman who knew how to voice her thoughts and be assertive of her needs.
Going out and doing all those things and being honest about my feelings and telling that boy I like him, moving beyond just fantasizing about those things and making them real – well, yes, it did open me up to hurting and being sad. Heartbroken, even. But I wouldn’t give up those experiences for anything in the world.I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
I also adored how at its core, I Love You So Mochi is essentially about loving and honoring your family, even when you dream of a life that is different from what they want for you. We see this with Kimi and her mother; the reasons for their falling out go deeper than her mother’s disdain for Kimi’s passion. It is rooted in her mother’s wish for her daughter to have all the best opportunities she never did, in her wish for her daughter to never struggle the way she had to.
Ironically, these same exact reasons had caused the estrangement between Kimi’s mother and her grandparents. So it was an absolute treat to see our bubbly, immature Kimi take the time to understand this cycle of generational trauma and mend the bridges with the utmost respect and compassion. As a South Asian reader, Kimi’s experience in navigating her family’s expectations while asserting her own dreams was extremely relatable, and I loved that this was one of the central themes of the novel.
And though I am definitely not an expert to speak on the representation, I will admit that to me, it seemed the story was a celebration of Japanese culture–from its description of the food, places, clothing, history, and superstitions. Exploring Japan through Kimi’s eyes made me wish I was in Kyoto in person, and I loved how her time in Japan helped Kimi understand her own self in a better way.
Interestingly, the romance in this novel was very cleverly interweaved into these themes of self-discovery and healing. I loved how easy the chemistry and friendship between Akira and Kimi grew into something deeper, something that might lead to a happily ever after.
Akira was not your usual sexy YA boy fantasy; he was cute, smart, and also annoying in the way only teenage boys could possibly be. For me, the highlight of their romance was how they both taught each other to be brave, to believe in their dreams and choose their own passions over all else.
When you go home, I want you to remember that you are boundless,” he says. “That your dreams are not limited by anything—not uncertainty. Not what someone else thinks or says. Not what you think you should be doing versus what makes your heart light up.” He cups my face with one of his hands, his thumb stroking down my cheek. “Watching you embrace your passion is beautiful. And I hope you keep doing that, no matter what else might get in the way. You are so creative, so talented—the way your imagination overflows when you’re inspired …” He shakes his head, smiling slightly. “You have this endless well of passion and when you love something, you love it so fiercely. I am in awe of that. I am in awe of you.I Love So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
All things considered, I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is a book that I can see myself rereading cover to cover again, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody who enjoys cute, fluffy, lighthearted coming-of-age romances.
~ Meet The Author: Sarah Kuhn ~
Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film.
Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, comic book continuity, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.
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