Sugiura’s (It’s Not like It’s a Secret, 2017, etc.) sophomore novel deftly questions accountability for past injustices.
Seventeen-year-old Japanese-American CJ Katsuyama lives with her single mother and free-spirited aunt in present-day Silicon Valley. Though pushed by her mother to aspire to greatness, CJ feels she only excels at arranging flowers at the family flower shop. CJ is intimately familiar with the history of the store, sold for a pittance to Robert McAllister, a white man, while her family was interned during World War II, purchased back at the market rate after 30 years, and now floundering while the McAllisters have prospered (CJ’s high school is even named after them). A discovery about the McAllister patriarch leads CJ and other student activists to embark on a campaign that creates tension within their community and further complicates CJ’s relationship with her mother, a partner at McAllister Venture Capital. Sugiura tackles an abundance of topics with finesse, including social and economic injustice, allyship, and feminism, simultaneously breaking down the Asian-American immigration narrative and the myth of the model minority. CJ lacks confidence and is flawed but grows, along with other characters, into self-realization in part through addressing prejudices. A majority of the cast members are people of color, and many characters are biracial; several are queer. Two nations who first lived in the area, the Miwok and Ohlone, are named in the text.
Essential. (Fiction. 14-18)