It's Not Like It's a Secret - Misa Sugiura

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.


This is a story about love and about breaking away from expectations. Sana is working hard to accept herself as a lesbian, as an Asian girl in a new school and geographical location. She is frustrated by her home life, her mom's strictness and the fact that she's pretty sure her father is having an affair. At school, she falls for a Mexican girl whose friends are very wary of her, and at the same time she becomes friends with the other Asian girls who are very wary of others. The book deals very well with intersectional themes and issues, including the intersections of race and sexuality, generational differences between her and her parents, and tensions between the various ethnic/cultural groups at school.

I wasn't entirely sure where the book would be going, but I think Sugiura created a cully imagined world and complicated characters, as well as situations with no easy answers. And though some might have issues with the writing of Sana's mother's voice in dialect, I think that it's done respectfully and effectively considering the fact that she is supposed to be a later-in-life immigrant to America. The tensions around ethnicity and racial stereotypes was what really pulled the book together for me and made it more than a typical angst-ridden tale of teenage dating / coming out drama. A very strong book from a talented author.

Recommended

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out May 2017)

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