It’s Not Like It’s a Secret
Sana Kiyohara is 16 and in the closet when her parents decide to move from predominantly white Wisconsin (where Sana knows of maybe 3 other Asian kids at her school) to a far more culturally and ethnically diverse California city. In the midst of finding a sense of belonging among new friends, and falling for Jamie, a Latina cross-country athlete, Sana is faced with a fresh need to think through racism and stereotypes, reconcile her identity as a queer Japanese American, and confront her own biases and bigotry towards other groups of people.
There are a number of things I especially appreciate about this novel. It’s an incredibly easy read that tackles a lot of layers in an accessible way. It’s refreshing to have a queer couple where both characters are women of colour. I love the ways that the characters’ immigrant parents are portrayed, and how Sugiura (the author) weaves languages (Japanese and a little Spanish) through the narrative in a way that is easy to understand for English-only readers. She also finds a seamless way to incorporate poetry into the story as the characters use it to reflect on their own experiences and express themselves.
Sana is relatable character who was easy to root for, even though she was far from perfect and makes some pretty face-palm-worthy mistakes. I loved that this story is not only about sexuality, but also race, belonging, listening to others’ differences, family, fidelity, communication, secrets, and friendship. I’d highly recommend this book to teenagers ages 12 and older.