Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Sweet and Sour

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Sweet and Sour
September 6th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mai's family lives in California, but are able to spend six weeks every summer with her mother's best friend. The Koyamas have a house near Mystic, Connecticut, twins who are six, and a son a year older than Mai, Zach. Mai and Zach have been best friends forever, but right before the Koyamas moved to Japan for two years, Zach didn't stand up for Mai when two of his friends said racist things about her. Since she hasn't seen him for two years, her resentment has festered, and she arrives in Connecticut working on a plan to get back at him. Her friend Lila, who is back in California playing in a rock band (the two are HUGE BTS fans), video chats with her frequently, and is going to come to visit later in the summer. It's hard to ignore Zach, who has come back from Japan with small, thoughtful gifts for her and who spent time modeling when he was gone. His friends from school spend a lot of time at the house, and Mai enjoys being able to talk to Celeste, the girlfriend of Zach's friend. She's fun and positive, which also makes it hard for Mai to hold onto her grudge. The summer is bookended by the two's birthdays; Zach's at the beginnings, and Mai's at the end, and there is all kind of fun in between; getting ice cream in town, playing with the twins, and hanging out on the beach. It's not as much fun for Mai, however, who tries to think of ways she can hurt Zach. Lila is all for this plan until she visits and sees that Zach really is well meaning and doesn't seem to know he has angered Mai. Tween relationship, however, can turn quickly, and Mai manages to run afoul of both Lila and Celeste during Lila's visit, but manages to straighten things out. After Zach kisses her, she has very mixed emotions, and stops talking to him because she is so conflicted. Will Mai be able to finally discuss matters with her long time best friend honestly so that she can move past her anger?
Strengths: Summers in a resort community. Life long friends you only see once a year. Friends who are boys who become ridiculously attractive. Ice cream on the beach. Sigh. So many appealing things happen in this book, but they are overshadowed by overwhelming, life changing tween angst. Perfect. As someone who still has grudges against people I went to high school with, I can completely understand Mai's feelings about Zach, and it's good to observe that she really suffers through all of the emotions associated with the perceived slight, and that the resolution isn't easy. The Mystic, Connecticut setting is great fun, and the supporting characters like Celeste add another layer of interest. I loved that Mai wears dresses! Add to this some Japanese culture, misunderstandings between people that are worked out in exemplary fashion, and the thrill of romance, and Sweet and Sour is quite an appealing read. 
Weaknesses: As an adult, the teen angst seemed a bit much, but my readers will love this. They will also understand the appeal of BTS and boys wearing eyeliner. I didn't care for it in the 80s, and don't see the appeal now, so I am REALLY old! Also, the dancing current bands do is more about speed and precision than grace and fluidity, so it looks like they are having seizures. I'm going to go rock on the porch now and wave my cane at passersby.
What I really think: Florence's Keep it Together, Keiko Carter and Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai are very popular in my library with readers of the Scholastic WISH  novels, and I think this summer of romance and revenge will be frequently recommended among my students. Now, if it could just encourage the girls to realize that wearing dresses are not evil, that would be great! 

Haven't been doing the outfit of the day, but I have on my patchwork jumper over a navy skirt and t shirt with puffed sleeves and a big gold bow pin at the neckline. Caught a glimpse of myself in the showcase window and it struck me why I like this so much-- it looks like something from the 1976 JC Penney catalog. Patchwork, red and blue, jumper effect-- perfect. If I had my druthers, it'd be cottage core or toddler grandma style evey day!

Ms. Yingling

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