About This Book:
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
*Review Contributed By Olivia Farr Staff Reviewer*
THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT is an engaging YA contemporary with strong underlying messages about racism and social activism. With a romantic comedy premise and feel, this book is surprisingly educational, teaching about racism, white saviors, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, model minorities, as well as mechanisms for enacting change (e.g. petitions, protests).
CJ Katsuyama is seventeen years old and feels like she has failed at pretty much everything in her past. Her mother is a lawyer who works at a venture capitalist firm- owned by the billionaire family (McAllisters) who bought her family's business from her great-grandfather for pennies on the dollar during the internment and then insisted on selling it back after the war at current market value- a difficult feat for someone who had been interned. She has never known her father, who was someone her mother had hooked up with but did not keep in touch with. When her mother found out she was pregnant, she made a conscious decision to keep the baby, CJ.
CJ also lives with Hannah, her aunt and her mother's much younger sister, who often feels like an older sister rather than an aunt. CJ has recently started working as an apprentice at the family business, which is selling flowers, learning from her aunt who believes in the magic of flowers. CJ actually enjoys it and is starting to get better at it, when she learns that the business may be going under- potentially to be bought by the McAllisters again.
She is also getting to know Owen, the boy who is also working at the flower shop with her and big-time history nerd. At the same time, some drama with her BFF Emily is potentially happening with Emily's ex-girlfriend Brynn who did something terrible when they dated in middle school- and CJ has not forgotten.
As CJ balances her social life, she also knows that she wants to save the family business and get some justice against the McAllisters, starting her on a larger quest of social justice.
What I loved: First of all, most of the main characters are people of color and many are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and they get a lot of presence in the story. On top of that, the book has asides throughout that cover important topics from CJ's ancestry and her own history as well as from larger history (e.g. internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, problems/history of model minorities) that really add an important educational element to the book. They are interwoven so well that it adds to the story quite a bit. It's a strong book with strong characters, and I absolutely loved reading it. With social justice themes and some romance and comedy, this was an engaging and incredible story that will make you wonder about the magic of flowers.
Final verdict: I highly recommend for readers of all ages who are looking for a strong and engaging story- romantic comedy, social activism, or just engrossing YA contemporary. You won't be disappointed in this amazing story. Fans of INTERNMENT, MOXIE, Maurene Gao, and Sandhya Menon will love this new book, and I would love to read more from this talented author.
As a final note, I would add warnings for teenage pregnancy, drug/alcohol use (marijuana), abortion, racism/sexism, and homophobia.
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