Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)
When her mother decides to sell their family flower shop, a rift forms in the Katsuyama household. CJ’s mother wants to forgive and forget, but her free-spirited aunt is adamant that the store will pull through, and selling it to the family who swindled their grandparents during the Japanese internment is unthinkable. Unable to live up to her mother’s high expectations, CJ has always gone with the flow, found peace in arranging flowers, but now she has something she wants to fight for.
This Time Will Be Different‘s primary focus is whether should history just stay in the past. CJ and her friends certainly don’t think so and try their hardest to get people to be held accountable. The current McAllister may not have been the ones to have personally stolen, but they reap the benefit of their generational wealth to this present day, while those who lose out are faded to a distant memory. It’s why her aunt refuses to let the McAllister buy their store who would just use the space for their benefit, again.
CJ’s family unit is quite complicated. She’s stuck between her mother’s fierce ambition and her aunt’s chill behaviour, which places her in a middle ground where she must choose whether to focus on the future or trust with her heart. I really appreciated the ways Sugiura brought the Katsuyama household to life. CJ feels like she can never catch her to what her mother expects, and that’s such a universal feel, and I really enjoyed how Sugiura portrayed those moments of vulnerability within CJ.
CJ is unique, to say the least. She lacks confidence through much of the novel and grows into her self-realisation as she begins to address her own trauma and prejudices. She’s not great at communicating, which leads to her bottling everything up until they come out too extreme. She isn’t driven the way her mother would prefer and uses her feeling of failure to protect herself, which I found quite relatable. However, I have to say; I didn’t really like her attitude for much of the novel. Her pettiness ruins many things for herself and others around her.
I think the most disappointing aspect of this book was how it was all over the place, and the focus isn’t really there. One moment, it’s about the flower shop, the next, it’s about them discovering the land their highschool resides on is also a property that was defrauded the same way CJ’s grandparents were. Moreover, then that takes over the entire novel as the students’ rally to change the name of their school, the flower shop is placed on the back burner until it’s needed again. That being said, there’s a lot of discussion within this novel, which I appreciated: racism, sexism, model minority myth, and white saviour complex. And with an open ending and little closure, I was hoping everything to be reined in more and have a stronger focus.
Overall, This Time Will Be Different is a compelling read, shining a light on a history that shouldn’t be forgotten. Despite my own thoughts, this book is well deserved and succeeds in multiple ways. A novel of memories and history and whether we can genuinely learn from our mistakes, or are we doomed to repeat them all with little reflection. I would recommend this to most contemporary lovers that enjoy stories about social justice and how to make a difference on a small scale.