It’s Not Like It’s A Secret
by Misa Sugiura
Before I dive in I want to explain that I’ve tagged this with polyamory not for the main characters, but for a few side characters. If you’re looking for a poly romance, this is absolutely not it. This is a teenage lesbian romance, with a side of racial issues.
Sana is a California transplant from Wisconsin; both her parents are immigrants from Japan, so despite feeling like she’s a midwesterner, none of her friends think of her as one. There’s a cringe-y scene early in the book where she cheers with her friends about being “midwestern farmer’s daughters” and they tell her she’s cute for thinking that, but she’s Japanese, obv. I felt really bad for her. When her family moves to California, suddenly she’s not the only Asian girl in a sea of whiteness. It’s an interesting mix of having a place with your own people but also fighting the stereotypes of sticking with your own ethnicity. It’s assumed she’ll be friends with the other Asian kids, which annoys her, but she also finds to be true; having not had the opportunity to have friends like her before, she finds she really likes it. (See my Friday 56 quote about it.) But she also tries to break that mold and be friends with people she’s not assumed to like – like Jamie Ramirez and her Hispanic friends, and Caleb and his white goth friends.
The book also explores the way racism hits races differently; the Hispanic kids get hassled by cops while the Asian kids don’t – though they also have things expected of them that the Hispanic kids don’t. The book gets into cultural expectations as well – PDAs are not really a thing in Sana’s world, so she’s reluctant to be public about her affections at school, which drives misunderstandings.
It’s only in the last few chapters that all the secrets come out, and Sana struggles to put things right.
One thing I really liked about the book is the narrative structure. At the beginning of the school year, Sana’s English teacher gives them a project, which is to keep a journal to transcribe poems into and talk about what they mean to you. Chapters from Sana’s poetry journal are interspersed with chapters of the narrative, and give some nice insight to how she’s feeling. Her love interest, Jamie, also loves poetry, and it plays a large part in their relationship.
I quite enjoyed this book.
From the cover of It’s Not Like It’s A Secret:
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 the fact that she’s pretty sure her father’s having an affair. And then there is the one that she barely even admits 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 her to be honest with her friends and family, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known before. The only problems are: Sana is pretty sure Jamie’s friends hate her, Jamie’s ex isn’t totally out of the picture, Sana’s new friend Caleb has more-than-friendly feelings for her, and things with her dad feel like they’re coming to a head. She always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wanted to date a girl, but as Sana quickly learns, telling the truth is easy . . . what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.