Mini!Reviews: The Disenchantments (Nina LaCour) & There You’ll Find Me (Jenny B. Jones)

I’ve made it my New Year’s Resolution to attempt to review every (or nearly every) book that I read in 2013, but sometimes I read so quickly and am so busy that I don’t have enough time to thoroughly write a detailed review. I’m trying to remedy this with a series of “mini” (or rather, smaller-than-usual-but-not-quite-“bite-sized”) book reviews. Though they won’t be as detailed or as long as my usual book reviews, they’ll still be long enough to convey my thoughts.

Today’s mini!reviews are of the novels The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour and There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones.

the disenchantments - nina lacour

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev’s band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she’s abandoning their plans — and Colby — to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev’s already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what’s next?

The Disenchantments is a complex novel about a complicated, close friendship, set on the backdrop of a cross-country band-touring road trip. I initially picked it up because I can’t remember the last time I read a YA novel narrated by a male protagonist, written by a female author, and this was something I never knew I wanted until I started reading. The themes of art, music, growing up, and self-discovery make up this book. However, it is the two main characters that drive these themes home, and the reason why I really enjoyed this book.

Girls with platonic relationships with boys are constantly singled out for being “cruel”, for “leading them on”, and for “friendzoning” them. What I liked about this novel was that although Colby was in love with his best friend, Bev and had been for years — to the point where he had dreams that one day she would give him a chance — his hurt doesn’t stem from some ridiculous notions of being “friendzoned”. In fact, it’s hinted that Bev might even return his feelings, but she has so much going on in her life that she doesn’t want to pursue them and ruin probably her closest relationship. But even if she doesn’t, romance is not the point of this book, nor would it be healthy for Colby and Bev to be in a relationship — not with Colby’s misconceived, built-up perception of Bev, or with Bev’s personal insecurities and issues with her family (and herself).

Though I can’t say I agreed with some of Bev’s choices, especially the way she risked Colby’s future by not telling him of her plans or back-up plans throughout their senior year, I understand why it was difficult for her to even bring up the subject. (Beneath the surface, she truly cares about him, and after listening to him talk about this Europe trip for so long, how could she easily tell him that she wanted to go to this college instead, especially when — back then — it was a chance she was taking for herself and she had no idea if she’d even get in?) But Colby’s hurt at not being told, especially since he had rearranged his life around the plan to Europe they were no longer taking, and had not applied to colleges for the fall, is equally justified and real. (Misconceived perceptions or not, wouldn’t you be miffed that someone made a huge life-affecting plan with you, only to cancel it last-minute and leave you unsure of what the next year brings because you never thought to make a back-up plan, thinking you’d never need it?) The humanity in these characters, their fragile feelings and imperfections, truly resonated with me.

I also loved that the band featured in the Disenchantments was a girl band, and the focus was not on improving musical ability or talent or making great manufactured records that hide the fact that no one in the band can actually play their instruments. I’ve never seen this in a book about musicians, even amateur teenage musicians, and I found the idea behind their band’s existence and the reason for their tour compelling. They might be a group of beautiful girls, but their audience, after the initial shock of the not-so-great music, ended up enjoying their shows because they were mesmerized by their energy and passion. These feelings resonated with people, enough for them to be carried away by the band’s vivacity and enjoy the performance anyway. Could such a band sell a CD? Probably not. But on stage, their enthusiasm was electrifying and their audience was enchanted, watching them fall completely for the music.

The Disenchantments is a story about the intricacy of people and relationships. Fans of John Green’s work, especially Paper Towns, will enjoy this.

there you'll find me - jenny b. jones

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will. She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane. Beckett Rush, teen heart-throb and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.
Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

All I knew about There You’ll Find Me before I started reading was that it took place in Ireland. As a fan of books with foreign settings and a girl who very much wants to travel everywhere I possibly can one day, it was a book I had to pick up. What I was not expecting was a beautiful, poignant novel about grief, endurance, and personal faith.

There You’ll Find Me begins with Finley Sinclair, an eighteen-year-old hotel heiress (I laughed) on her way to Abbeyglen, Ireland to work on her audition piece for the New York Conservatory. She ends up sitting beside teen heart-throb Beckett Rush, an actor in a vampire franchise (I laughed again) who is more than his tabloid headlines, and though she doesn’t know it at the time, the chance encounter (the first of many) is the start of a hilarious, adorable love/hate friendship and a relationship that ends up strongly impacting her life.

What I loved about this novel was how it transcended the clichés and tropes Jenny B. Jones threw in it. Finley struggles with an eating disorder after her older brother Will was killed in a terrorist attack. She comes from a religious family, but because of her grief, she feels as if God has forsaken her. Her brother was a deeply religious person, and he felt God everywhere in Abbeyglen, so she wants to travel there and see the same sights he did, if not to reclaim the faith that had once been the cornerstone of her being, than to feel that connection with Will again, to fall in love with the country that took his breath away and made him feel something within his core. Throw in a cute movie star who is nothing like his public persona (and uses every opportunity to tease or flirt with Finley), an ambitious (and irritating) schoolgirl nemesis, and a seemingly angry, bitter elderly woman dying of cancer (with an enormous load of regrets and a huge secret), and you have an interesting romantic comedy in the making. Despite these commonly used and somewhat-unrealistic plots (how many hotel heiresses and vampire actors are you personally familiar with?), I found the heart of the story — Finley’s story — to be compelling, and it is the reason why reading this novel felt worthwhile. Finley’s search for faith and her failure at coping with loss are two things I felt anyone could relate to. As much as they may annoy the hell out of me sometimes, I can’t imagine losing either of my siblings. Her feelings, the fact that after all this time she was still finding it difficult to deal with the lack of her brother’s presence in her life, really resonated with me, and I found myself meandering Ireland’s gorgeous landscape beside her, in search of the faith I once held strongly but could no longer feel.

The one thing that made me hesitant to read There You’ll Find Me was how much religion played in the story. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was not preachy, and though biblical verses are scattered within the novel, I thought it was realistic the way Finley, someone who had once been very religious, grasped at them for strength (especially a verse she had selected to recite whenever she needed to remind herself that she, who had already endured so much, could conquer anything she faced head-on), and it made sense to me that in this Irish location, so many people would be as faithful as Finley’s family. I never once felt overwhelmed by the story’s spiritual nature, nor did I ever feel like the mentions of Christianity or God were unnecessary. This book is essentially about a girl who is only trying to figure things out in a world where someone close to her is no longer alive, and because religion was a huge part of who she and Will were, it plays a huge role in her quest to rediscover who she is now.

Though I adored the romance (I fell hard for Beckett Rush, and then I discovered his real name was Michael — if you know anything about my Nikita obsession, you’ll realize why I was a goner even before I’d realized — and fell harder) and Beckett and Finley’s banter (which ended up fueling this beautiful love/hate relationship), I felt that There You’ll Find Me was a little too ambitious, trying to cover a great expanse of serious subjects and cute scenes all at once. While at times, Jenny B. Jones was able to balance the heavy elements with the light, at other times, the novel felt a bit congested, and things like Beatrice, the caricature teenage villain who seemed to add nothing to the novel other than present another (kind of unnecessary) obstacle for Finley, and Beckett’s problems with his father and his acting career, get lost in the mix. I was also really confused why Mrs. Sweeney’s side story about her poor relationship with her sister, their complicated history, and the beautiful-but-soap-opera-ish thing she did for her took over story midway, but this ended up immensely influencing Finley’s own journey so strongly that I didn’t mind at all by the time I finished the book (even though it did make the novel seem a little unfocused).

The musical component, every scene in which Finley and Beckett traipse around Ireland enjoying the almost dreamlike scenery (especially for Finley, who has already “viewed” the place through Will’s eyes in his journal), and the way that Finley ultimately attains closure and rediscovers faith truly touched me. I’m a religious person (even if Finley and I don’t share the same religion), so I have no idea how a person who does not actively practice a religion or is agnostic or atheist would react to this book, but I personally thought Finley’s loss (of both her brother and her faith), search for closure and control within herself after that loss was something anyone could relate to, regardless of his or her beliefs. The emotions in There You’ll Find Me truly took my breath away (and made me cry into my Kindle) so much that I didn’t even mind the slightly-rushed resolution. If you’re a fan of emotional journeys in gorgeous locations, you should give this novel a try.



Review: The Moon and More – Sarah Dessen

the moon and more - sarah dessen

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Sarah Dessen novels have been a summer staple of mine since I stumbled upon The Truth About Forever in high school and absolutely fell in love. Her books were some of the first contemporary romance YA novels I ever read, and I adore them so much that I revisit my favorites year after year after year, whenever it’s the season and I need something adorable to read. There is just something about her books and her writing… She is able to capture the mundane in a way that is both interesting and emotionally resonating. To the point where I almost always find myself engrossed in the lives of her characters and their stories, wanting to see them learn and grow.

The problem with being such an avid reader of Sarah Dessen’s is that I’ve read every book she’s ever written. I’ve reread all of the books I really loved. I know her formula as well as I know the back of my hand, but there are quirks in some of her novels, subtle differences in the characters and their circumstances and even in the setting, that are still able to make the story interesting for me. Something that sets it apart from other Sarah Dessen novels, but still pulls at my heartstrings in the same manner. And for the most part, these are the novels that I adore (my favorites are The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Just Listen). So whenever a new Sarah Dessen novel has been published, I approach it with excitement and a little reluctance. Because I know I’ll enjoy the story, but I won’t be able to stop comparing it to what I consider the hallmark of Dessen’s work (even if this may seem a little unfair). I need it to be able to stand on its own. But also, I need the feelings — its heart — to be very much the same.

For this reason… I have absolutely no idea what to say about The Moon and More. Like every Dessen novel published after Just Listen, I presented it with the same challenge. Like Lock and Key and Along for the Ride, it nearly succeeded, and then, ultimately I’m not sure if it failed or if it gave me exactly what I asked for.

The Moon and More takes place in the summer, relating the story of a girl (Emaline) during the transitional period between high school and college, her teenage years and adulthood. It started the way several of its predecessors began, detailing the intricacies and complexities of the girl’s familial relationships, re-introducing a familiar setting through the eyes of this new protagonist, and introducing a boy (Theo) who would end up challenging the way the girl thinks, learning from her and helping her learn something new about herself. It was the Dessen formula in a nutshell, and though I felt disappointed that she hadn’t tried something new with this one, I had fallen into Emaline’s life easily, recognizing Dessen’s writing and her scenarios as something familiar, a home of sorts.

And yet, this novel surprised me. While it is true that these elements, key facets of Dessen’s works, are present in the novel, The Moon and More felt different for me in a way I had not expected at all. Mostly because The Moon and More is not actually a love story. It isn’t about an epic summer love; it isn’t about a girl meeting a boy and discovering him to be “the one”. I don’t know if I can call this a summer romance novel like most of Dessen’s other novels because even though there are romantic relationships in the novel, it is not the focus. Instead, any romance in The Moon and More is used directly to illustrate changes in Emaline, character development. This book is Emaline’s alone.

What I loved about The Moon and More is that essentially, it is about a girl trying to figure out the pieces of her life, her feelings about them, and how they fit in during this time when everything is changing. It’s a common Dessen plot, but instead of the romance fueling the character’s epiphany by the end, Emaline does it on her own, through her own observations. The romance is more or less something that just happens, something she learns from, and something that may or may not be irrelevant aside from the lessons it taught her.

My favorite feature of this book is the realism. Though many contemporary novels (including Sarah Dessen’s former ones) revolve around realistic situations, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a novel feature estranged parental relationships that don’t end well (and probably won’t… ever), great romantic relationships that end badly, and a seemingly great (non-abusive) relationship that isn’t actually great at all (it’s just…meh). The Moon and More‘s main theme is that everything in life cannot be “the best”. Every moment or relationship can’t possibly be epic (because then the ‘epic’ would become ‘the mundane’ and… where do you go from there?), there has to be ups and downs. This meant that while Emaline’s situation with her biological father constantly frustrated me, I understood why Sarah Dessen wrote it the way she did — situations like Emaline’s happen in real life all the time. The other main difference in this book is that it features not one, but two relationships, and the romance is basically up in the air. Emaline begins the summer with her long term boyfriend, Luke, whom she has been dating for four years. Though they’re a great couple (for the most part), they’ve been dating so long that neither of them feel much of a spark anymore, even though they still deeply care for each other. So their relationship is gradually falling apart. Not because they don’t love each other, not because Emaline’s intrigued by the new city boy who just arrived in Colby, but because they are teenagers who have dated since freshman year — they don’t know anything else, they don’t know anyone else, and they are at the point in their lives when new people, new experiences, and inquisitiveness reign.

The new romance that begins in The Moon and More, on the other hand, is such a dud that I had to question if I was “reading the book right” so many times. I could not believe Sarah Dessen, the queen of summer boys who take my breath away (Wes Baker and Dexter Jones) would introduce a character who was ridiculous, pretentious, way out of line, and constantly needed to be punched in the face. Especially when it takes Emaline longer than it took me to realize it. It was frustrating reading a novel I expected to be a romance with a relationship that was all wrong when the summary made it seem like I would like this new boy who was a refreshing change from the boys Emaline knew, this character who, for the most part, seemed to be artsy and quirky and interesting — the type of things I usually fall in love with. But everything about Theo only seemed to make me angry, and he never once respected Emaline as her own person (if she disagreed with him, she was simply wrong or confused or sheltered and did not yet “know better”). Strangely, being with Theo, who provided insight into city life (and the life of the wealthy), did help Emaline discover how much time she spends wishing for something better, taking for granted all the things she loves about her family and her home in Colby. He also taught her to go after the things in life that matter to her, that if there was something better out there, she should try her best to seize it. As a boyfriend, Theo was pretty unmemorable (I would erase him from my memory if I was Emaline, to be honest), but as a person, he was responsible for Emaline’s altered outlook on life. He affected her thoughts and opinions, and he helped her become more comfortable with whom she is (and whom she is not).

The biggest change, and the reason why I am uncertain about the feelings the novel leaves me with, is the fact that because the book is not about a romance, the timeline and the plot focus on Emaline. In the beginning, Emaline has doubts about her life and curiosity about the world. In the middle, she meets and dates Theo, challenging her opinions and feelings and discovering things about herself. By the end, her worldview is altered, she herself as reached some sort of conclusion — as much of a conclusion as a growing, learning individual about to leave for college (and change some more) can. Previous Dessen timelines revolve around the romance, the introduction, the things the boy and girl learn about themselves from the relationship, some kind of epiphany but also relationship-closure (which usually, except in the case of Dreamland, means that the relationship is solid by the end of the novel, or it will be solid when the characters meet again). There is no relationship-closure in The Moon and More. By the end of the novel, Emaline is in a good place with herself. She knows where she stands with her family. However, she has no idea where she stands with Luke. Even while she was dating Theo, it was obvious that she and Luke cared about each other. He was still there for her as a friend when she needed him, he still wanted to know why she was upset and to do whatever he could to make her feel better. I’ll be honest — I was rooting for them from the start. But like real relationships, the fact that they had feelings for each other was not enough, and both Emaline and Luke, who had spent their teenage years together, needed to learn who they are without eachother. It’s a mature decision not to reconcile by the end of the novel (not romantically, anyway), but it’s a decision that is so different from Sarah Dessen’s novels, so unexpected, that I found myself a little disappointed in the end. Emaline’s story is very much finished, but Emaline and Luke are a story that have barely just started. Maybe they’ll realize they found the real thing in high school, somewhere down the line, and find each other again. Or maybe they’ll just be that perfect high school romance they carry with them in memory, something that was a huge part of who they were as teenagers, but nothing more. I don’t know (though I want to believe the former), but this uncertainty, even if Emaline’s personal story was resolved, haunted me after finishing the novel. As realistic as it was, part of me could not help but wish for the usual Sarah Dessen endings. I needed some more closure.


[Anime] Series Review: Kimi ni Todoke

kimi ni todoke

Kuronuma Sawako is completely misunderstood by her classmates. Her timid and sweet demeanor is often mistaken for malicious behavior. This is due to her resemblance to the ghost girl from “The Ring”, which has led her peers to give her the nickname “Sadako”. Longing to make friends and live a normal life, she is naturally drawn to Kazehaya Shouta, the most popular guy in class, whose “100% refreshing” personality earns him great admiration from Sawako. So when Kazehaya starts talking to her, maybe there is hope for the friendships Sawako has always longed for. Maybe… there is even a little hope for some romance in her future.

(Because the second season was only 12 episodes long, I’m including it in this series review. And, as usual, this anime review contains spoilers.)

I watched Kimi ni Todoke during a “shoujo anime binge” (I’m now confused about which romantic shoujo anime to watch next, so feel free to recommend all the things), which is why this is a review of the entire series, both season one and season two. I actually stumbled on it by accident, browsing for a different anime before my sister noticed this one and assured me that she had heard only good things about it. It looked cute enough, so I gave it a shot… and it ended up being the most adorable, kind-of-frustrating thing I have ever seen. (Spoilers ahead.)

Story: Kimi ni Todoke is the story of a boy and a girl who secretly love each other, and really just want their feelings to “reach” the other (hence the title, “reaching you” or “from me to you” or some other variation). Season one of the anime is mostly told through the perspective of Kuronuma Sawako, a girl who acts a little strange and looks a bit creepy, so her peers spend their time spreading rumors about her and avoiding her like the plague.

kimi ni todoke 1 kimi ni todoke 2

The only person in her school who treats her with any kindness, who smiles at her and appears to be equally friendly with everyone, Sawako included, is Kazehaya Shouta, the most popular boy in the school. Because of the way he treats her, the fact that he aims to be genuine and gives everyone a chance and actually smiles at her when she says, “Good morning!” makes Sawako want to learn how to be as friendly and liked by everyone as he is. He helps her by including her in as many class activities as possible, allowing other people to get to know her as she actually is, as he himself has recently been discovering.

“Without my even realizing it, I’d fallen in love…”

Somewhere along the way, both fall in love with each other, though Kazehaya recognizes it first. But because of Sawako’s innocent nature, he isn’t sure how to get his feelings across. When she realizes her feelings for him are deeper than respect, she holds back because she doesn’t know how to say the words, and she doesn’t think he, as such a popular and well-liked boy, could ever feel that way about her. Through a series of misunderstandings and misconstrued conversations, the two struggle to convey their feelings, afraid of the outcome and afraid to clearly expose their emotions, but (still) desperately wishing for their affection to (somehow) reach the other.

Characters: The highlight of Kimi ni Todoke, and why I fell head over heels for it, are the characters. During the first episode, I didn’t think I’d be able to get through this anime because the entire premise seemed really strange, Sawako’s voice was either too small or too creepy (it changed when she got into one of her internal monologues), and her character design was just… not what I was used to in shoujo anime. I was intrigued, however, because I had heard only fantastic things about Kimi ni Todoke, and I’m always curious why certain shoujo anime are so popular. But then, I watched the final scene in Episode 1, and one of the characters, Kazehaya Shouta, completely captured my heart with a single smile and a kind of awkward conversation, and I knew I was going to end up marathon-ing the rest of the anime as fast as I possibly could.

kimi ni todoke 3 kimi ni todoke 4

The main character is Kuronuma Sawako, the innocent, naive, kind and trusting (to a fault) heroine who is constantly misunderstood and misjudged. Though ultimately Kimi ni Todoke is a romance, most of the first season (and therefore most of the series) was about Sawako forging friendships, learning from her friends and unknowingly teaching them things about relationships, trust, and kindness in turn. I’ll admit that Sawako was a little extreme — I know people who are that shy (me, for example) and who trust too easily or are that gullible. But Sawako’s unwavering belief in everyone and everything sometimes seemed too exaggerated, to the point where I felt like no one could possibly be that oblivious. I found it adorable in this character (when it might have driven me mad in another). (It was, however, a little frustrating that Sawako would give people gifts simply for being even remotely considerate towards her. My sister wanted to shake her for her naivety. I was okay with it, for the most part, because I know people who are almost exactly like Sawako, so it didn’t seem as strange to me.

Because Sawako is such an innocent, cute, quiet character, the moments I found truly enjoyable were when she finally speaks her mind, not only about her feelings for people, but her opinions and personal beliefs. I could also really relate to her whenever she’d encounter social situations that she didn’t know what to do with because I’ve been there — not to the same extent, but I understood her. I really felt for her when people ostracize her for ridiculous rumors, even people who somewhat got to know her, and I was surprised that, while she didn’t fight them, she held herself together when faced with a huge peer group that mostly was spreading lies about her. The gossip and the rumor mill in her school was the worst, and Sawako rarely reacted to it with tears. (Though she did, when asked cruelly or curiously if she could summon ghosts, start to apologize for not having that power, which I thought was kind of strange… But also a little adorable? But strange.)

kuronuma sawako kazehaya shouta

Kazehaya Shouta is nothing like my past usual taste in anime boys, but everything like my current taste (if that makes any sense). I usually fall hard for the tortured characters, either the jerks with the heart of gold or the heroes with some complicated back story (read: Tsuruga Ren (in the Skip Beat! manga)). But lately, I’ve been falling in love with some perfectly nice, perfectly sweet, I COULD DATE YOU IN REAL LIFE anime boys, like Mashima Taichi of Chihayafuru, and now Kimi ni Todoke‘s Kazehaya Shouta. He’s this friendly, lively, kind boy, only popular because of his athletic skills and probably his looks, but he really attempts to go out of his way to make everyone feel included, especially when he’s a class leader. Because we saw him mostly from Sawako’s perspective until the second season, Kazehaya didn’t seem particularly three-dimensional (he might have been a little TOO perfect), but there was something about his easy-going nature and his bright smile that pulled me in anyway.

“No matter what others say or what they think, they don’t matter to me. There might be only a few people whom I can speak my mind to. That might be why I have always kept a distance from those around me. But keeping a distance from you. I can’t do it. There’s nothing about you that doesn’t matter to me.”

He would awkwardly, adorably (despite the fact that this boy is the king of the social scene in his school), innocently muck up most of his interactions with Sawako, even in the final episode when the two finally started dating, and it would be so cute that he’d capture your heart anyway. He’s also so honest and sincere that it’s quite refreshing.

The second season allowed us a peek inside his head, into his own insecurities (he’s still not a tortured character in any way though, which I found refreshing), making him seem a little less “perfect shoujo pretty boy”, but the character was still so kind to Sawako and so cute and flustered that even if you wanted to dislike him on principle alone (or because his fanclub really sucks, though I couldn’t even hate Yuki of Fruits Basket for the ridiculousness of his fanclub), it was difficult. If you can’t tell, he was my favorite (or… one of my favorites, since all the characters in this anime are brilliant).

Yano and Chizuru become two of Sawako’s closest friends. What I love about this group is how dynamic it is. Yano’s maturity, not only in relationships, but also in the levelheaded way she handles certain situations, complements Sawako’s extreme sincerity and Chizuru’s headstrong attitude. I also love the fact that once Yano and Chizuru realize that Sawako is not at all like the person people say she is, they automatically want to remedy their initial reaction (caution) to her. They specifically try to know her, fall in love with the way she is actually so kind and enthusiastic, and become Sawako’s unofficial guardians, standing up for her whenever anyone treats her wrongly. I love the way their friendship evolves, blossoming from a kindness into something stronger gradually, to the point where Yano would tease Sawako about her crush on Kazehaya and she and Chizu would spend their time shopping and hanging out at ramen shops with Sawako. I loved whenever they played with her hair and make up, especially because Sawako never had any close girlfriends and it would still surprise her that two people would want to hang out with her, that doing this kind of thing would fill them up with joy.

yano ryuu and chizuru

Other characters — Kazehaya’s best friend Ryuu, their student teacher (who constantly teased and picked on Kazehaya) Pin, and Sawako’s “love rival” Kurumi — also added personality to the ensemble cast. I loved how Ryuu, for the most part, could be calmly eating in any tense scene. His love for Chizu was adorable, and Chizu’s love for his (engaged and soon to be married) older brother was both cute and heartbreaking. Pin was both annoying and entertaining, so I never really knew how to feel about him. I had mixed feelings about Kurumi as well. She eventually became a complex villain, instead of just a manipulative girl who wanted Kazehaya for herself, but some of the things she did created so many misunderstandings and so much drama that I’d really dislike her. I did like her by the end of the second season, but not enough to forgive some of the ridiculous things she had said to Sawako since she’d first met her.

Romance: What I adore about Kimi ni Todoke is that, for the most part, the things that happen are incredibly realistic. Though the pace of the show drove me insane for a while (especially in the second season), I loved that Sawako and Kazehaya had legitimate moments that made them fall in love with each other. We watch these two people, especially Kazehaya (since he knows he likes her first) fall for each other, “slowly and then all at once”*. Kazehaya fell for her smile and her cheerfulness, seeing a side to her no one else ever did because they didn’t look past her resemblance to Sadako or the rumors about her. The way she put 200% into everything she did, even if it were something she was awful at, really amazed him.

“Everyone was affected by you trying your best. You didn’t notice it? You affect me as well.”

Sawako loved how fair and kind he was. Her feelings grew from respect and admiration, sneaking up on her because she hadn’t even imagined anything beyond friendship. (She was too innocent for that.) Their awkwardness, the way they danced around each other, the way their confessions went wrong and Kazehaya stumbled over his words when he even asked her to be his girlfriend — everything about this ship is endearing.

kazehaya and sawako 1 kazehaya and sawako 2

kazehaya and sawako 3 kazehaya and sawako 4

I also loved that the first season didn’t rely on huge misunderstandings that create unnecessary drama and prolong the tension, so the couple never gets together until the last possible second.

[*If you can’t recognize it, that quote is from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.]

The second season, on the other hand, relies upon such cliché situations to the point of ridiculousness, just to create drama that did not need to be there. I can understand why Sawako and Kazehaya can misunderstand each other’s feelings, but with Kurumi and Kento’s involvement, and the repetition of such misconstrued conversations, I was beyond frustrated, especially when a simple honest discussion could have quickly cleared up all the unneeded angst. This made me sad, since I really adored how the first season shied away from this. It was slow in a cute adorkable way, but the pacing and the trail of misunderstandings made several episodes of the second season almost unbearable. I think it that twelve episode season had been shorter and everything had happened a little more naturally, this anime would have been one of my favorite romantic shoujo ever.

Theme Songs: I loved the opening theme, “Kimi ni Todoke” by Tomofumi Tanizawa. It’s both upbeat and peaceful, reflected in the pastel colors and gorgeous images that accompany the music. Considering it shares a title with the anime, it also fits the series quite well. I actually really love the vocalist. His voice fits the same quiet, tranquil, yet energetic atmosphere, which is exactly how the show basically is in season one, and it reminds me a lot of Kazehaya himself. And I am a little too fascinated with the way he says “chime” (I don’t really understand why, though listen to the song and you might know what I mean). Bottom line? This theme is my favorite. I still listen to it all the time. (I really love the cast version because you can tell which cast is singing, and it’s adorable when Sawako and Kazehaya’s seiyuu sing the pretty, romantic parts of the song together. And Kazehaya nails that mesmerizing “chime” part of the song too.)

The art that accompanies the ending theme is gorgeous. Light, calming, warm pastel colors, and adorable chibi characters set the mood for the song. And in this setting, nothing fits better than the equally gorgeous ending theme, “Kataomoi” by Chara. It’s such a melodic song, but it starts off with this one slightly high-pitched beautiful line that really echoes the emotions in Kimi ni Todoke, especially the intensity of the emotions at the end of certain episodes (though actually, there’s always some intensity, even when things are ending well enough for the characters, because there are these immensely sweet moments that break your heart because of all the unrequited love and complex feelings these characters hold).

While I loved the style and colors for the opening theme for the second season, “Swakaze” by Tomofumi Tanizawa, it didn’t get stuck in my head in the same way that the first season’s opening theme did. I did, however, love the chorus and immediately following an episode, I had to hum it. (However, I watched Kimi ni Todoke months ago, and I was unable to remember this song, whereas I still know the melody and half the words to the first one, so it wasn’t a particularly memorable theme.)

Like the first ending theme, the art in the second, “Kimi ni Todoke” by MAY’S, included airy, pastel colors. I thought this theme was really pretty, but like the second season’s opening, I barely remembered it an hour or so after finishing an episode.

Art: For the most part, Kimi ni Todoke is filled with vivid, pastel colors from the scenery around them to the bright blue of their high school uniforms. Though all the environmental scenery was gorgeous (I especially loved anything with the sky — it made me want to paint landscapes), what stood out to me in this anime’s art is how realistic the character design was. Nearly all the anime I watch (and probably most anime in general) have characters with colored hair, sometimes unnatural, and eyes that take up more space on the face than they should (as any good portrait artist will tell you). The eyes were still larger than normal in Kimi ni Todoke, but they were much smaller than normal anime eyes, and they were actually almond-shaped, like a real eye. The characters’ hair was brown or black, realistically designed, once again making it seem like this story could happen in real life. I also loved the detail in this anime. Some of the frames included close ups of characters in emotional scenes and the emotion would be expressed in the art so perfectly. Sometimes pastel-colored bubbles and geometric shapes appeared during incredibly happy scenes, adding to the dream-like emotions the characters would be feeling in those scenes. Basically, I was incredibly impressed with the art, and I’d recommend Kimi ni Todoke on that basis alone.

Ending: I’m a fan of both the season one and the season two ending for this series. I liked that season one focused more on Sawako’s growth as a character and her friendships. Her birthday episode was adorable, and I love that her friends attempted to match-make her with Kazehaya (who, again, clearly had feelings for her). It was a cute episode, and though it didn’t “resolve” much, it also didn’t have to (the series got a second season after all). Sawako and Kazehaya made enormous strides in their relationship regardless, and the cuteness at the end made me super excited for the next season.

I like that season two ended with Sawako and Kazehaya finally becoming a couple. We only get to see one of their dates (it was the cutest thing I had ever had the pleasure of seeing), but before that, we were able to witness Kazehaya and Sawako think thoroughly about their feelings, the risks any confession would bring, and why they even liked (what they even liked about) the other. I applauded when Sawako ended up being the one to state her feelings clearly, essentially being the reason why they were both able to rise above the misunderstandings and become a couple anyway. Her finding her voice and the courage to do such a thing when everything — in her head — made the situation seem hopeless was one of my favorite things about Kimi ni Todoke.

“I don’t know the first thing about being a good girlfriend, but—”
“—Kuronuma, it’s not a job! It’s not a job. Just be yourself.”

I loved the way Kazehaya awkwardly, adorkably asked her out, and I’ll never forget how he threw caution to the wind and shouted his feelings to her from across the courtyard (“KURONUMA, SUKI DAYO!”). Even though the second season drove me mad, the last few episodes were so perfect that I forgive it. It was exactly what I was waiting for since the first episode, and like Lovely Complex, it’s a perfect resolution to a very cute shoujo romance anime.

“It’s like a dream… I’ve finally reached you.”

(Kimi ni Todoke is currently an ongoing manga, and does not stop once Kazehaya and Sawako become a couple (which is a good thing because at that point, the story’s just begun in a manga!), but the anime is still very conclusive, and fans of Kimi ni Todoke will be pleased by the way it ends.)


Previous Older Entries