On the cover, there’s a blurb from Maurene Goo that reads, “As sweet and satisfying as actual mochi... a tender love story wrapped up in food, fashion, and family. I gobbled it up.” Honestly, that’s a perfect one-line review. I Love You So Mochi really is as sweet as mochi.
Kimi is a senior in high school and the book opens with her having something of an identity crisis. The book opens with her and her mother having one of those very devastating silent fights about Kimi not wanting to pursue art school. But what does Kimi want to do with her life if not the art she’s been creating since she was four?
Most of the book takes place in Japan, as Kimi accepts an invitation from her estranged grandparents to visit for two weeks during her spring vacation. Readers see Japan through the lens of a Japanese-American girl who’s never visited but is still deeply connected to the culture. It’s an interesting blend of tourism and coming home that feels uniquely Kimi. Kuhn does a great job of showing the reader Japan not as a series of locations but as Kimi’s journey of self-discovery through discrete experiences.
As you might have guessed, there’s also an adorable romance. It’s packed with the kind of flirting that only happens on vacation - the shyness of meeting someone new combined with the risk-taking that comes with being out of your element. Akira is sweet and loves Kimi for who she is, with all her bright patterns and enthusiasm. Their relationship is very much a Happy For Now, but that works because they’re teenagers and separated by an ocean at the end. (Thank you, technology, for helping us bridge continents and oceans for love.)
There’s a lot of food and a lot of fashion, and it’s obvious to the reader long before it’s clear to Kimi that her passion is fashion. None of these things overwhelm the story, however, and the entire thing is grounded by Kimi’s personal relationships. The bonds she forms with her grandparents are so genuine and they don’t meld into the same person like some literary sets of grandparents do. Wonderful contemporary world-building and character arcs all around.
You will enjoy I Love You So Mochi if you like:
- Fluffy romance (low-heat, just kissing)
- Excellent friends
- Food and travel
- Complicated family dynamics that wind up as a love fest
Suzanne borrowed this book from her library.