Title // I Love You So Mochi
Author // Sarah Kuhn
Publisher // Scholastic
Publication Date // May 28, 2019
My Rating // ★★★★☆ (4.5)
Synopsis // 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 brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. 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 loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. 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.
Many thanks to Scholastic for giving me a free ARC at Yallwest
I don’t even have the words to describe the absolute cuteness overload that was this book!!! I mean, first of all, just look at that gorgeous cover! With the cherry blossoms, and the drawn characters, and the adorable handwritten look of the cover…I just knew that I would be in for a treat, and I absolutely was!
I Love You So Mochi is about Kimi, a second generation Japanese-American teenager, who goes to Japan and meets her Japanese grandparents for the first time in her life during her senior year of high school, and goes through a period of self exploration and discovery along the way, trying to determine what exactly she wants to do with her life. The premise was so wonderfully cute, yet relatable, and I just adored every inch of this book!
Kimi is such a wonderful character to read about. She’s spent her entire life trying to please her parents, especially her mother who wants her to go to a prestigious art school and become an artist. (This also brings up the equations of “Asian Mom Math” which had me cackling lol). Meanwhile, she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, except that she’s quit art lessons and loves fashion and experimenting with clothes. Reading about her struggle with her parents’ expectations and her own desires, and her just feeling overall lost and confused and unsure of what exactly she wants to do with her life felt so personal and relatable to me, a senior in high school who is also trying to figure out just what to do with my life.
I love how Kimi’s passion for fashion really shone through in this book. It was so clear how much she loved it, loved her work, and also the descriptions of her pieces, such as a piece of candy wrappers, paper notes, or a re purposed skating dress, were so clear and unique and I could absolutely picture them in my mind and see how much she loved them. We really get to see Kimi’s fun, caring, and so complicated yet wonderful personality shining through her art pieces.
The setting was an absolute favorite part of this. Japan! Kyoto! From descriptions of street vendors (like mochi vendors!!), to walks through beautiful parks, to beautiful cherry blossoms, the setting was so amazing to read about and I really felt that I was there, in Japan. This book, and Kimi, is also certainly Japanese-American (Kimi’s mom is first generation and her dad is fourth generation), as there are descriptions of growing up Asian in America, and even talk of the Japanese internment camps from WWII. Furthermore, since Kimi is American and has never been to Japan before, we really got to see her experience her culture for the first time, take it in with fresh eyes. We got to see her blundering around, not understanding parts of the language and culture, and trying to figure it out. Trying especially to figure out how she can look like everyone there, much more so than she did in America, yet still seem and act so completely out of place. This was so incredibly relatable to me, and I sometimes felt like Kimi’s journey was an exact mirror of my own recent trip to Asian for the first time in ten years where I had to discover everything new.
Of course, would it be one of my reviews if I didn’t have a paragraph dedicated to the food? Especially in a book with the word “mochi” in the title? Right from the first chapter there are absolutely mouth watering descriptions of mochi, sweet and chewy with a delicious treat in the middle, matcha and strawberry and all sorts of flavors, and I was here for it!! Kimi even gets to help make mochi at a street vendor’s stall and it was just so much fun (and also super delicious) to read about!
One especially wonderful thing about this book was the strong family themes. Kimi goes to Japan initially to escape her mother’s wrath when she fails to please her tiger mom, and there she meets her grandparents for the first time who have become estranged from her mom because her mom failed to live up to their expectations. We get to see Kimi meet and get to know her grandparents, and also learn about her mom’s past with them, and overall see the importance of family.