From Little Tokyo, With Love
By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Funny, fierce romance explores belonging, fitting in.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some insights into Japanese American culture, especially in the Los Angeles area. Some Japanese vocabulary and folklore. Some geography and places of interest in the Los Angleles area. Ways to help someone who's having a panic attack.
You can make your own happy ending, and make it however you want it to be. If you sometimes feel like people don't see your whole self, or appreciate you for who you are, you're not alone. Lots of people feel that way for lots of different reasons. Anger isn't always a bad emotion; sometimes it helps you know that something's wrong, to protect yourself, or to see more clearly what's really important to you. But you have to channel it and not just lash out with it. Communities need to be outspoken against people who condemn others, spread hatred, and think they're superior. If people don't speak up, the entire community ends up hurting, and could even break apart, over the poisonous words and actions of the few.
Positive Role Models
Narrator Rika feels angry most of the time, and says she only feels at home when she's fighting something. She lashes out sometimes and sees herself and a mostly destructive force. But she learns to see the positive side of herself as fierce, protective, passionate, and deeply caring. Her family is a positive representation of a tight-knit, nontraditional, Japanese American family with two moms. Rika is half Japanese American and half White. Love interest Henry is supportive, patient, and not afraid of Rika's anger. He a positive model for asking for consent to sexual activity. He's half Chinese and half Filipino, and several other characters are positive role models for people with a racially mixed heritage. Several positive LGBTQ+ characters.
Violence & Scariness
Some violent imagery when Rika imagines her favorite folklore figure, a powerful snake monster with a woman's face who eats people, mentioning bloody fangs and landing a killing blow. A villain uses verbal bullying and aggression.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing and making out including brief descriptions of using tongue, caressing, and straddling at the waist (fully clothed and in public). Sex is implied by mention of having protection, tangled limbs, clothes of the floor, and feeling bliss.
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"F--k," "s--t," "d--k," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "dammit," "Goddammit," "damn," "asshole," and "crap."
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Products & Purchases
A few food, tech, car, beverage, restaurant, and clothing brands mentioned to establish location or character.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink beer to slight excess at a restaurant, and wine with dinner at a party is mentioned. A 12-year-old knows where her mother's "weed stash" is.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that From Little Tokyo, With Love is a romantic coming-of-ager with a wide range of positive Asian American, mixed race, and LGBTQA+ characters. There's no violence, except for some mildly scary imagery from imagining a snake-woman character from Japanese folklore, although there is some verbal agression and bullying. There's one instance of implied sex mentioning protection, tangles limbs, and clothes on the floor; plus a few kisses with tongue and some light making out. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "d--k." Narrator Rika isn't violent but has a quick temper and always feels angry. Learning to accept and channel your emotions in positive ways is an important theme. Other important themes include parental loss and abandonment, not fitting in or belonging, community tension from bullying for not being "Japanese enough," and lack of Asian American representation in Hollywood.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
FROM LITTLE TOKYO, WITH LOVE is the story of 17-year-old Rika, who often lets her anger get the best of her. She's never felt like she belongs with her adoptive family, even though she knows they love her. And as the child of a Japanese American mother and White father, she's never really felt a part of tight-knit Little Tokyo community of Los Angeles, either. Until she meets Henry, an up-and-coming movie star, on the same day a strange event makes her think her mother might actually still be alive. As Rika and Henry try to piece together the clues to Rika's past, they start to fall for each other. But Rika has a hard time believing anyone, especially Henry, is actually willing to put up with her, much less really love her.
Is It Any Good?
Veteran author Sarah Kuhn delivers a funny, touching story of a fiercely passionate young woman's quest to find out if her mother's alive, and to find a place where she belongs. From Little Tokyo, With Love is also populated with colorful, believable characters with strong, positive Asian American and LGBTQA+ representation, which give a refreshing feel and perspective to the story. Many YA main characters struggle with fitting in and feeling like they belong, but what makes Rika unique is that it's her always-just-under-the-surface anger that she thinks is her greatest weakness, and what keeps her from feeling like she belongs where she is. Teens will relate to her as she discovers that anger doesn't always have to be a negative feeling.
The romance itself follows a pretty conventional story arc, and the plot has some minor holes here and there. But they're not serious enough to bother readers who'll enjoy the humor; the narrow escapes; and the sense of discovering lesser-known but still amazing landmarks, locations, and communities around Los Angeles. Strong language and brief but passionate sexual activity make it best for teens and up.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about representation in From Little Tokyo, With Love. Why is it important to have diversity in media and pop culture?
What about the strong language? How much is too much? Is it realistic? Does it make a difference if it is or not?
Is Rika a good role model? What are her character strengths and weaknesses? Who was your favorite character, and why?
- Author: Sarah Kuhn
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking
- Publication date: May 11, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 10, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Teen Romance Novels
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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