If Rika's life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale--being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts' business--she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills and red-hot temper, she doesn't quite fit the princess mold.
All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America's reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness--searching for clues that Grace is her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo's hidden treasures with cute actor Hank Chen, and maybe...finally finding a sense of belonging.
But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn't so kind. Rika knows she's setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don't happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?
Okaaay I went through it reading this book! Yes it was fun, yes it had romance and a quest of sorts but wow did I see my younger self in Rika and her anger and how it felt to her, as well as how she felt that she didn't deserve a happy ending. Not to be brutally personal there, but Rika had me feeling quite emotional a time or two!
As such, I immediately loved Rika, like I read the first chapter and fell in love with her narrative voice, then I got punched in the heart by how the chapter ended. I just really connected with her character, I was rooting for her, empathised with her and was just generally Team Rika throughout! I really loved her sisters Rory and Belle and the relationship between the three of them. Their interactions had me chuckling a time or two! There's so many great characters in this book, and I truly felt like Henry was the perfect match for Rika. Everyone else saw Rika as angry and problematic, always causing disruptions but Henry just see's her as passionate. They both encourage each other in their own individual missions and I actually thought it was really refreshing to have a movie star character like Henry struggling with panic attacks rather than painting him to be perfect.
I easily binged through this, Rika and Henry go on a treasure hunt of sorts in the quest to find Rika's mother, following all the clues they come across. But while this has humour and some sweet, swoony romance moments, there's also these very emotional moments that tug at the heart. Rika struggles with fitting in and feeling like she belongs because of not only her anger and the trouble she thinks she causes, but because of her identity as biracial and when I tell you I want to climb inside the book and punch Craig repeatedly for making her life a misery and spewing hatred at her...I'm not kidding. If I could have done it I would have. Gladly.
There's a lot of heart to this story, it's a quest to find Rika's mother, but it's also a journey of Rika's own self discovery. She learns that while she might struggle with her anger, which is an issue I haven't seen in a YA book before, she learns to stop equating that with her being difficult or disruptive. Rika also goes on a journey to realise that she does deserve a happy ending and it just has so much heart to it alongside a strong theme of not belonging.
I should mention a quick content/trigger warning because there is distinct racism in this book and slurs are used by one character to another. There's also homophobia and panic attacks. In terms of rep, we've got some wlw side characters in the form of Rika's two mums and one of her sisters is pansexual! Rika is biracial as is Henry though Rika is Japanese American and Henry is Filipino Chinese and as a result different issues and struggles are touched upon by each of them relating to being biracial.
All in all, this is a book full of heart, with some important issues addressed as well as some interesting ones such as Rika's anger issues. The romance is sweet and Rika's journey of self discovery is one that resonates!