From Little Tokyo, with Love by Sarah Kuhn
Published by: May 11th 2021 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult // Contemporary, Romance
**This book was gifted to me for an impartial review by the Publisher. This in no way alters my review.**
Celebrated author Sarah Kuhn reinvents the modern fairy tale in this intensely personal yet hilarious novel of a girl whose search for a storybook ending takes her to unexpected places in both her beloved LA neighborhood and her own guarded heart.
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?
When I was offered the chance to read From Tokyo, With Love in advance, let me tell you: I was OVER THE MOON. This beauty of a novel has been on my TBR for so long – my heart waiting for the day when I could read Rika’s story – and when it was in my hands, I wasted no time in diving straight in.
Right away, I felt like I was immersed in a fairytale. Little Tokyo is described so ethereally and gracefully that I fell in love with it from the get-go. We meet Rika, our main character. She’s strong, clever, and unforgettable in the way that she speaks. Living in Little Tokyo with her Aunts and Cousins, Rika has often felt like the odd one out. Her cousins are into the Princess, dressing up kind of world, whereas Rika is drawn into habits by her impulsive temper issues and love of monsters in Japanese folklore. She was adopted by her Aunts after her Mum apparently passed away (and no one seems to want to talk about it), and thinks of her cousins (who are named after Disney Princesses!) as her sisters. But as close as they are, she still feels disconnected from them, being biracial in an established Japanese-American community, and not having that Parental closeness.
That all changes when Rika briefly meets the flawlessly famous star Grace Kimura, beloved by everyone. Their meeting is somewhat of a disaster, and upon further digging, Rika suspects that Grace might be her mother. Going on a journey with newfound-also-famous Henry, who is Grace’s co-star in a new movie, Rika sets out to discover who she is for good. But along the way, the feeling of finding herself, mixed with her dwelling romantic feelings for Henry and confusion about everything she once knew was true, Rika is overwhelmed with the sudden truth in just how much she wants to find her place in this world.
Overall, I fell majorly in love with From Little Tokyo, With Love. From Rika and Henry bonding over their biracial experiences, journeys across L.A., fighting homophobia, Princess puns and wholesome moments that caught my breath, I just couldn’t love this book any more than I do. It is so rare to see a YA character with an anger-issue, and we see her character development soar in greatness throughout her journey, some of the best development I’ve read in a long time. I also LOVED Rika’s cousins Belle and Rory – they were some of the funniest, realest-feeling characters. Everything about Little Tokyo stole my attention from the moment I started reading. My heart lives there now. 5 stars completely.
About The Author:
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. Follow Sarah on Twitter here.
Have you read From Little Tokyo, With Love or any of Sarah’s other books?
Let me know in the comments or on twitter @LittleMemoirs!