Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Haikus by S. J. Pajonas

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"When it comes to fight or flight, I always choose to run like hell.”

Isa planned the perfect summer:

Tokyo and the Summer Olympics — check.

Helping her best friend prepare for the marathon — check.

Forgetting she's in love with Masa — double check.

But when Isa's mother is hospitalized, she has to abandon her summer plans to run the family's Tokyo business. Masa’s offer to help makes it impossible for Isa to ignore him — and the firecracker kiss they shared half a world away. Everyone expects the world of her, but the pressure to please them all is as oppressive as the Tokyo summer heat. The simplest answer to all her problems? Run.

Isa is used to being in the background and being the pleaser. Her best friend and Oympic hopeful, Halley is the center of her world. They’ve grown up together and now attend university together. Isa is also Halley’s biggest supporter and makes sure her friend stays on course. Masa is another close friend she’s known for a couple of years for whom she harbours a secret love. She just hasn’t been brave enough to tell him. Years of rejection and missed signals have made her doubt her own attractiveness or ability to interest guys. It doesn’t help that Masa has a penchant for writing the sweetest haikus for his friend (they're scattered throughout the book) that cause her even more heartache. When she finally makes a move, it turns out badly and both she and Masa are left feeling uneasy around each other.

Isa is summoned to Japan earlier than expected that summer when her mother is involved in an accident that leaves her laid up in the hospital for weeks. Isa is expected to drop her plans to help run the family’s ryokan (a Japanese hotel) that’s been in their family for generations. The expectations are enormous and too much for someone like Isa who has to have everything planned out and a contingency plan for anything that may go wrong. Desperation leads her to reach out to Masa to make peace and ask for help. Thus the rest of the summer has them side by side working together, immersing themselves in Japanese culture and edging ever closer to each other’s hearts.

Readers can commiserate with Isa’s confusion over Masa and sympathize with the stress she puts upon herself to please everyone around her. At some point she knows she has to stop hiding in everyone’s shadow and be forthcoming about what she wants.  Summer Haikus is an adorable summer read and if you love travelling, reading Isa’s perspective on Japan and the different facets of its culture will be especially enjoyable. The lovely haikus are sweet, too!

~ Bel

      Summer Haikus (Happily Ever Asia)

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