Love & Other Natural Disasters

HarperTeen. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062991232.
Gr 8 Up–When the opportunity to kiss her crush at an end of the school year party doesn’t go as planned, Japanese American teen Nozomi is convinced she is just beige wallpaper—plain and unmemorable. She is looking forward to a summer spent away in San Francisco, interning at her uncle’s art gallery, as a chance to reinvent herself and, hopefully, have the perfect summer romance. Enter Willow, an incredibly gorgeous Asian girl who works in the gallery’s gift shop and is heartbroken over a recent breakup with her girlfriend. Willow, feeling betrayed and spiteful, suggests that they fake date to make her ex jealous. Nozomi jumps at the chance, hoping that through the process Willow will fall in love with her. Sugiura brings readers an adorable rom-com where the conflict isn’t focused on the character’s sexuality. While Nozomi is a frustrating main character at times, putting herself before others and getting into cringe-worthy situations, many teens will find her relatable. On the surface, this appears to be a predictable romance novel with a fake dating trope, but it goes deeper than that. The story also digs into the intersection of race and queerness along with other topics like dementia, the fallout of divorce, and homophobia.
VERDICT A fun romance that engages with deeper issues.

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