Title: Now and Zen
Author: Linda Gerber
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Nori Tanaka is thrilled to be studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan, but it isn’t exactly what she had imagined. She expected tranquil gardens and swoopy-roofed houses, not concrete and neon. And everyone assumes that, with her traditional Japanese features, she’s a native instead of the naïve Japanese-American that she really is. Even Erik, a gorgeous German student, mistakes Nori for Japanese, and treats her like a personal tour guide. Nori is sure that he’ll like her for who she is once he gets to know her, so what harm can come of temporarily pretending to be Japanese? It doesn’t take long to realize that she has a lot to learn about Japan, and about herself, before she can pass for a native. But after exploring the karaoke clubs in Tokyo, the peaceful temples in Kyoto, and the tranquil heights of Mt. Fuji, Nori knows she has a good chance of finding the hidden Japanese spirit and Zen mindset within herself. (Source: Goodreads)
When Nori Tanaka signs up for SASS all she’s looking for is an escape from the reality of her parent’s impending divorce. What she finds in Japan is new friends, new family, and a lot of complication. She quickly gets entangled in a love triangle, hurts some friends, and spirals from the fear of her family falling apart. When she goes for a week long home stay with her distant relatives Nori begins to deal with her home life, the mistakes she’s made, and the disconnect she’s felt in Japan all along. Can she take what she learns in Kyoto and fix everything before she has to go home?
This was one of my travel abroad romance reads, and while I was expecting it to be pretty bad (it was) I enjoyed some aspects of the book a well. The book is corny and heavy on that fake-y teen drama that often clogs up the YA world. There is some serious contemplation on aspects of culture in this book that a lot of other SASS books kind of miss the mark on as well. I mean…this one does to but there is some interesting stuff about the divide that faces people like Nori who are ethnically Japanese but raised in America so they don’t feel like they fit in either place. I just wish that had been more important than the ridiculous love triangle. It was that cheesiness and bad plotting that really let this book down.
Nori spends most of her time in Japan lying about who she is, and getting tangled in a complicated set of relationships with 2 fairly uninteresting and unlikable guys from the SASS program. This quickly becomes the focus of the book and we wind up ignoring the issues that really matter like Nori’s parent’s divorce and the sort of cultural dissonance Nori is feeling on her first trip to Japan. These things are there in the background haunting the book, making the whole book disappointing because those things should be the focus and instead Gerber takes a lot of time dealing with Nori’s stupid choices. This book has the potential to be a really interesting look at the second generation immigrant experience but it simply ignores all that to look at Nori fooling some guy into thinking she’s Japanese.
The writing is simple in this book. It’s an easy read, especially as it focuses on those kinds of predictable teen romance aspects. The whole thing only takes a couple hours to read. It was enjoyable for the most part I just felt left down by the lack of depth to anything in this book
It’s an alright read, I’m just too disappointed to rate it any higher than this. The SASS books are all just sort of enjoyable but still bad books so this comes as no surprise.