Title: I Love You So Mochi
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Publishing Date: May 28th 2019
Age Category & Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
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.
TO THE ASIAN-AMERICANS, ARTISTS, DREAMERS, AND TO THOSE FINDING THEMSELVES
What I admire most about I Love You So Mochi is its capacity to look cute and soft on the outside and be fun and light on the inside because of the cover, Kimi’s voice and Kuhn’s writing, while at the same time be deep and heartfelt and talk about existential crisis, anxiety, discovering other cultures, culture sensitivity, complex family relationships and parental pressures.
My heart was so full because of the Asian cultures tackled, specially Japanese cultures I was introduced to. The main thing I loved was how it mirrors reality and shows how real some expectations and pressures from Asian parents are for their children regarding their careers. This was portrayed by how Kimi tried so hard to meet her mom’s expectations and reached for her mom’s dream for her and how her mom reacted and their relationship ruined when she learned that Kimi does not want to follow her footsteps anymore and that she no longer knows what she wants for her career.
That being said, I huge part of this book focused on Kimi having an existential crisis. Another favorite aspect of mine. I experienced the same thing when I was in college and it truly, truly, sucks. So, seeing how Kimi, especially as a teen, dealt with it and struggled felt all too familiar and relatable to me. I also loved how it was not just a story of discovering one’s passion, but of discovering one’s roots as well. As a Japanese-American, we see Kimi navigate her Japanese side. How she connected to her grandparents in Japan, went there, and discovered all that she could about herself, the family, and the country she came from.
Though I can see why some reviewers, which are notably mostly white, did not enjoy this much because “it was obvious what Kimi wants from the beginning“ that part even made this more realistic and strengthened its representation to me. As an Asian myself, I understood how Kimi cannot see fashion design as the right career she should take no matter how much she loves it. Sadly, fashion design is not a career most Asian parents see as an “actual career” that will make one’s future successful. So, I can see why Kimi did what she did.
Kimi opened the creative world of fashion design for me and wow, how it filled me with so much color and inspiration. I highly enjoyed Kimi’s processes in making clothes and appreciated seeing the meaning and story behind each clothing.
WELCOME TO KYOTO, JAPAN
Another strength and highlight was how this book tours us around Kyoto, Japan. I Love You So Mochi is like a guide book to Kyoto, where we were introduced to its various tourist spots, traditions, foods and got to see what these places’ effects on people are. This made the experience more entertaining and feel more surreal. It compelled me to look up those featured places on the internet. And imagining some scenes happening in those specific real places made my heart swell.
CHARACTERS OF ALL AGES, #FRIENDSHIPGOALS, IMPERFECT FAMILIES
I connected with Kimi easily. She is complex. I related to her having anxiety and being scared of facing the reality, preferring things to stay in her imagination where everything is in place. We see her doubt herself and feel utterly lost. Yet, we also clearly see her fun, youthful, passionate and creative side.
Akira is such a source of light, cuteness and support. I love how healthy his relationship with Kimi is. As well as how he is dreaming of becoming a doctor. Akira knows exactly what he wants and this created a balance so we got to see both sides from the situations he and Kimi are in.
I also adore the friendship between Bex, Atsuko and Kimi. They have this sister-from-another-mother kind of friendship, are also a source of fun in the story and is just #friendshipgoals.
This book also tackles the complex nature of a parent-child relationship and I love how the family issues were handled. I love that we got to hear the side of Kimi’s parents and grandparents, and see their dreams and passions as individuals – especially Kimi’s grandparents. We do not just hear and understand the teens, but the adults as well.
WHAT TOOK THE STAR OFF?
As much as I love both Kimi and Akira as individuals and the healthy relationship they had, I still fee like the romance was unnecessary. I cringed at their very first meeting because I just knew right there and then that the new boy being introduced is there to deliver a romance. I would have probably liked it better if they did not flirt right at their very first meeting.
It lost its tight grip on my attention somewhere in the middle. Hence, making my reading speed slowdown and making me finish this after more than a week, which is not what I expected on the beginning.
I Love You So Mochi made me want to fly straight to Japan, eat a lot of mochi, and just get lost to its places full of wonders. Sweet and heartwarming, but sometimes bitter and sad read full of fun, color, discovery, passion, and love. It tells us to embrace our uniqueness because our uniqueness is beautiful, that it is okay to get lost sometimes, that one should learn how to forgive and inspires us to never give up on our dreams and what speaks to our souls. I highly recommend especially for teens who are Asian-American, artistic and/or dealing with existential crisis.
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.
Have you read I Love You So Mochi? Have you eaten a mochi before? What is your favorite book set in Japan or features an Asian-American lead? Share your thoughts below!