Emiko Jean is the author of the bestselling YA series Tokyo Ever After. Mika In Real Life is Jean’s first foray into adult fiction. The novel follows Mika, who feels that her life is falling apart at thirty-five-years-old. She’s been fired from her job (again), her relationship with her boyfriend has shattered, and her parents find her a perpetual disappointment. But her life comes to an abrupt halt when, whilst perusing the aisles of her local Target, Mika receives a phone call from Penny: the baby she placed for adoption when she was a teenager. With the emergence of Penny comes a spiralling process of self-discovery for Mika. But is Mika ready to reveal to Penny who Mika Suzuki really is?
Mika In Real Life is an enjoyable read from start to finish. Even though Jean comes from the world of YA fiction, she proves that she is not afraid to tackle the most difficult of adult topics, from sexual assault to strained familial relationships. Most notably, though, Jean offers a beautiful study of the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships. Here Jean explores the impact our most earliest moments can have on our adult lives and how pivotal it is to have a nurturing mother. It was particularly beautiful to read about Mika’s bountiful love for Penny and her deep yearning to do anything and everything for her. In addition, Jean’s exploration of adoption was incredibly interesting. Here she looks at the issues that can arise when parents adopt children of different cultures. Penny, for example, is half-Japanese but adopted by white parents. Although her parents love her greatly, Penny’s character points to the ways adopted children can be made to feel confused over their identity and as if they are missing an integral part of their cultural history.
Moreover, it was refreshing to read a book about a character like Mika: an adult who does not have their life completely together. Throughout the novel, Mika comes to learn that life is not perfect. Not all her expectations will be met, particularly regarding the dynamics of her relationship with her parents. But Mika comes to accept this and takes it as part of life. It was nice to see this easy acceptance from Mika and the reassuring acknowledgement that we cannot, and do not, need to fix absolutely everything in our lives.
Overall, Mika In Real Life is a sweet, touching novel filled with beautifully complex, perfectly imperfect relationships.
Mika In Real Life will be available to purchase from September 8.