I’m not one to snub a good pun. If it makes me even smile, I appreciate the humor. So of course I Love You Mochi by Sarah Kuhn caught my attention because of that lovely little pun in the title. It’s delightful.
Kimi Nakamura loves fashion. She lives, breathes, and daydreams fashion. But her mother does not approve. When Kimi is invited to visit her estranged grandparents in Kyoto, Japan, she jumps at the chance to escape from her mother’s overbearing ideas about her future as an artist. In Kyoto, Kimi loses herself in the culture of Japan and in the cute smile of a future med student as she uncovers answers about her own passions and her relationship with her mother.
I Love You So Mochi is adorable, but the writing style reminds me more of middle grade than YA. The conflict and romance, however, wouldn’t make sense for a middle grade story, so my experience reading this book is weird.
My favorite aspect of the book is Kimi’s passion for fashion. I adore the ideas and sketch designs she comes up with during her experiences in Japan. This element is a unique take on artistic talent, and it’s cool how it ties the plot to the setting. I find it odd that Kimi goes to Japan to “search” for passion in life when it is painfully clear from the first page of the book that fashion design is her passion. That conclusion isn’t at all a surprise, but I suppose this is one of those books where the journey is more important than the destination.
And it is a fun journey. I love all the details of Japan—from Kimi’s sightseeing explorations to the food descriptions to her relationship with her grandparents. Kimi’s grandparents are probably my second favorite aspect of the story. Her grandpa is all sorts of ornery, and I like that Kimi growing closer to her grandma helps her understand her relationship with her mother better. The family relationships in this book far outshine the romance.
For me, the romance is the low point of the story. Akira is cute, but I think he could have just been a friend she makes while in Japan and the plot would remain the same. I don’t think Kimi and Akira have a ton of chemistry, and it’s kind of odd how invested they are in each other after only knowing each other for a few days. Their relationship exists more to move the plot forward and to have an excuse for Kimi to tour Japan without her grandparents. Akira also doesn’t feel fully developed as a character.
Even so, I Love You So Mochi is a sweet, simple YA contemporary that focuses more on family and artistic passion than romance. If you’re looking for something lighter without a ton of conflict or tension, this book is for you.