Sweet and sour

Debbi Michiko Florence

Book - 2022

Eleven-year-old Mai has been contemplating revenge on her former best friend Zach ever since he humiliated her two years ago, but while spending time together for the summer, Mai has noticed a change in Zach, forcing her to decide if she can forgive him, even if she can never forget.

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New York : Scholastic Press [2022]
First edition
Physical Description
292 pages ; 22 cm
Ages 8-12.
Grades 4-6.
Main Author
Debbi Michiko Florence (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Japanese American tween Mai is looking forward to her family's usual summer vacation to Mystic, Connecticut, so she can finally get revenge on her former BFF, Zach, who humiliated her two summers ago. Stuck in memories of summers past, memories both sweet in nature and sour in her heart, Mai is determined to get revenge while also keeping her distance. Zach's eager to see her again though, after two years abroad in Japan, and Mai's torn between the familiar feelings of friendship and her own shortsighted goals. Full of summer memories and fun activities, like birding and canoeing, and with a fair amount of friendship drama and first kisses, this middle-grade novel is a sweet taste of youthful summer and a reminder of how extreme friendship fails can be. Florence's prose is direct and to the point, and she nicely balances Mai's youthful outlook with her authorial hand. Mai is an imperfect and sometimes frustrating character, but readers will root for her and celebrate her big moments nonetheless.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Every year, Mai Hirano and Zach Koyama, along with their respective Japanese American families, spend the summer together at the Koyamas' vacation home in Mystic, Conn. But unexpected news causes the Koyamas to move suddenly to Tokyo, and a painful betrayal between Zach and Mai sours their friendship. The pair haven't spoken in two years when the Koyamas return, and Mai is ready to exact revenge on her former best friend. Except Zach isn't anything like she remembers; he speaks Japanese and dresses "like a K-pop idol," and, worst of all, acts like their fallout never happened. Confused and hurt, Mai struggles to navigate this seemingly different person, and to decide whether she wants to maintain her distance or explore a new and uncharted dynamic. Chapters titled "Sweet" and "Sour" alternate between good and bad memories, juggling the tweens' past and present as they forge ahead toward an uncertain future. Centering tumultuous adolescence and its effects on emotional health, Florence (Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai) effectively explores complex relationships between friends and family in this uplifting summer read. Ages 8--12. Agent: Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

Mai Hirano, almost 13, seeks revenge on her ex--best friend. The Hiranos have left California to spend every summer in Mystic, Connecticut, at the vacation home of the Koyamas: Holly, her mom's best friend from college; Holly's husband, Wes; and their son, Zach, Mai's childhood best friend. But two summers ago, Zach ruined their friendship, then the Koyamas moved to Japan, and the two haven't spoken since. Now the families are together in Connecticut again, but Mai is still angry and wants revenge. But Zach isn't the same kid: He's more confident, has learned Japanese, and even styles his hair a bit like a pop star. Even worse, he keeps acting like they're still best friends. The more time she spends with him, the harder it gets to pretend and hide her new feelings of attraction. Mai must decide whether to forgive him or let him go completely, but first she needs to hear his side of the story. Florence writes a delightful tale about close friendship that delves into feelings both positive and negative. Flashback chapters labeled "Sweet" and "Sour" depict the pair's good and bad memories, building up their backstories. Mai's relationship with her parents addresses adults' roles in supporting children's emotional health, particularly with regard to difficult emotions. There are beautiful depictions of nature and wildlife as well as nods to Japanese culture, music, and language. Mai, Zach, and their families are Japanese American. An endearing book exploring the ups and downs of friendship. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.