A story of old wounds, new passions, and life as a Japanese-American teen.
Good to know
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
This Time Will Be Different
Hannah calls it “a state of becoming,” but most people would probably call it chaos. The floor and work spaces are littered with leaves, stems, and thorns that haven’t made it into the giant wastebins by the tables. Flowers and greenery explode out of buckets on every flat surface that isn’t covered in piles of more greens and more flowers, all stripped of their lower leaves and thorns. The room is a riot of scarlet, green, ivory, and dusty pink.
In front of me sit twenty-five empty vases, their open mouths crisscrossed with grids of thin tape. When we’re finished, the empty grids will be transformed into a lush carpet of red and cream-colored roses and white and gold Chinese lilies, accented with clusters of pink pepper berries, eucalyptus leaves, and ivy—perfect for tomorrow’s mid-December wedding. Perfect for the beginning of somebody’s happily ever after.
That is, if you believe in that kind of thing.
As I trim the thorns off a rose stem, Hannah quizzes me.
“Fate,” my aunt says.
“Flax,” I reply, and she nods.
“Self-worth,” she says.
“White roses.” Another nod.
“Um . . . star-of-Bethlehem?”
“Nice!” Hannah beams at me. “Great job, CJ!”
Most kids get quizzed on stuff like state capitals, or French vocabulary words, or the elements on the periodic table. I get quizzed on the language of flowers. Hannah claims that by using it in the arrangements she makes for her clients, she can help fulfill their hearts’ desires. I have serious doubts about the scientific validity of her claim, but she says that if I want to be her apprentice at the shop, I have to know my flowers, so here we are.
Why I love it
Author, There's Something About Sweetie
I love reading books with characters that are so relatable, I can picture them being any one of the teens in my neighborhood. And that’s CJ: a wisecracking 17 year old who struggles with pleasing her mother.
When CJ begins working in her family’s flower shop, she realizes she has a real knack for flower arrangement. But just as she begins to care deeply about the family business, a bomb drops: CJ’s mother wants to sell the shop. And not just to anyone, but to the very people who cheated CJ’s grandparents during the time of Japanese internment camps. Soon, CJ finds herself caught up in a big, community-rending rift and realizes she has something worth fighting for.
This book handles really deep subjects—racism, bigotry, the not-so-distant sordid past of the United States—with so much heart and open vulnerability. Misa Sugiura writes with her usual flair, tackling heavy topics with a lightness and ease that belie the subject matter. Teens of every identity will be able to see themselves in CJ and the struggles she faces, because they are universal.