Contemporary Young Adult

From Little Tokyo, With Love by Sarah Kuhn Review

A modern fairytale that slays tropes and monsters.

Once upon a time . . . . Biracial Rika feels as though she doesn’t really belong. Not in her Japanese-American community of Little-Tokyo (in LA), where people won’t let her forget that she’s different —  half, a diet version, not truly one of their own. Not with her adoptive family, where the vibe among her cousins is Disney princess to Rika’s inner nure-onna, a character from Japanese folklore that’s part woman, part snake, and ALL flaring temper. What matters to Rika’s adoptive parents (Auntie Suzie and wife Auntie Och) is not Rika’s judo prowess (of the caliber where UCLA scouts might take note) but that Rika not rock the boat.

Then Rika’s path (literally!) collides with Asian-American Hollywood darling Grace Kimura at Little Tokyo’s Nikkei Week Parade, and Rika becomes convinced that Grace is her long-lost (dead!) mother. Aided by Filipino Chinese teen heartthrob Hank (Henry) Chen, Rika sets off on an epic Mom Quest through LA that forces her to confront and slay monsters, some of Henry’s, but especially her own.

From Little Tokyo, With Love is a modern fairytale about a feisty girl with awesome fighty abilities who believes in bitter-sweet, not happy endings. A girl who’s been taught (as so many of us have) that anger isn’t part of the “good” emotion spectrum. At its core, Kuhn’s novel digs deep into some of the many ways we can be made to feel like we don’t belong (from racism to homophobia to body shaming), and the monsters we may need to slay to discover our identity. Important side note: Henry aids Rika in her Mom Quest, but there’s no damsel-in-distressy-ness here. Rika and Henry save themselves and, yes, sometimes each other, but always maintain their autonomy.

A modern fairytale that slays tropes and monsters.

Book: From Little Tokyo, With Love
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 432
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Age Range: 14 – 18
Stars: 4.5/5

Penguin Teen kindly sent me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.


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