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This Time Will Be Different

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
This Time Will Be Different Book Poster Image
Captivating story of teen confronting the racist past.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

While fictional, the story of CJ's family mirrors that of thousands of real Japanese Americans who lost their jobs, businesses, and homes when they were sent to interment camps during World War II. Within the novel is a non-fiction chapter entitled "A Quick and Eerily Relevant History of Asians in American" that gives a brief overview of some pivotal historical events: the arrival in the mid-1800s of Chinese immigrants, laws passed to restrict the immigration of Asians and deny Chinese immigrants the right to apply for citizenship, and how the Asian "model-minority myth" was born. There's also an "Index of Flowers and Their Meanings" at the back of the book.

Positive Messages

It's never too late to confront an injustice from the past.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As the novel begins, CJ and her mother are at odds over CJ's seeming lack of ambition (from her mother's perspective). CJ refuses, sometimes defiantly, to see her future through her mother's eyes. But even her mother must reassess her image of CJ when she bravely steps up to take on a powerful local family with a controversial racist past.

Violence
Sex

A character reveals that she became pregnant during her sophomore year after unprotected (and not described) sex and decided to have an abortion.

Language

A fair amount of profanity ("f--k," "crap," "s--t," "a--hole," "Jesus").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens get high vaping and drunk on beer. CJ knows she was conceived after what her mother told her was a night of heavy drinking that left her with no memory of the man she'd had sex with.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in Misa Sugiura's This Time Will Be Different, 17-year-old CJ Katsuyama is making big decisions about her future and trying to right a terrible wrong from her community's past. CJ's mother, a high-powered Silicon Valley executive, expects her daughter to be an over achiever and aim high when it comes to a career, while CJ has found she loves working with flowers in her aunt's shop. But CJ proves a force to be reckoned with when it's revealed that her high school was named after a man with a racist past. CJ has another fight on her hands when that same man's family wants to buy the flower shop and tear it down for redevelopment. Teens get high vaping and drunk on beer, and there's a fair amount of profanity ("f--k," "crap," "s--t," "a--hole," "Jesus"). A girl reveals she got pregnant in her sophomore year and had an abortion. The cast of characters is ethnically diverse and includes teens who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual. The book deals with the subject of WWII internment camps.

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What's the story?

As THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT begins, 17-year-old CJ Katsuyama and her mother are having their usual battle over CJ's perceived lack of ambition. Her mother -- a partner at McAllister Venture Capital in Silicon Valley -- thinks CJ needs a "killer attitude and a grand vision" if she has any hope for a successful future. But CJ has failed at coding camp, ballet, soccer, and piano, and it's only now, apprenticing in her Aunt Hannah's flower shop, that she's found something she's really good at. But the shop is being kept alive by a constant stream of money from CJ's mom, who's decided to pull the plug. McAllister Venture Capital has made an offer for the store (they want to tear it down and redevelop the land), and CJ's mom has told Hannah she wants to accept it. When CJ, hoping publicity might bring more business into the store, convinces a local reporter to write a story about the shop, she and the town are shocked by what the article reveals: Robert McAllister made his fortune buying up property for pennies on the dollar from Japanese Americans being sent to internment camps during World War II. One of those properties was the Katsuyamas' flower shop, and it took years for the family to afford to buy it back. Meanwhile, McAllister had become so prominent in the community that CJ's high school had even been named for him. But CJ is determined that, this time, things will turn out very differently for the McAllisters.

Is it any good?

CJ is a captivating character who holds together an unlikely mix of storylines about the "language" of flowers, unmet expectations, lesbian mixers, and World War II history. While This Time Will Be Different tackles timely, controversial topics (what should be done about public buildings named for long-dead racists, and should a new generation make amends for the actions of a racist ancestor?), it's also a sweet, relatable, and often funny coming-of-age story about a girl who's determined to find her own true self.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Asian students are perceived in This Time Will Be Different. Do you think students at your school ever stereotype people because of their ethnicity?

  • CJ's mother and aunt don't want her to become a "target," so they make her promise to keep her opinions about renaming her school offline. Do you know anyone who's been bullied or harassed on social media because of a cause they supported?

  • If schools/government buildings/other things are named after historical figures who turn out to have a problematic past, do you think the names should be changed?

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