'This Time Will Be Different' Is A New YA Novel About Family History, A Flower Shop, And Moving Forward
When it was published in 2017, author Misa Sugiura's debut It's Not Like It's a Secret took the young adult book world by storm. In addition to being included on several "Best Of" lists from publications like Seventeen, Kirkus, and Paste, it was nominated by YASLA for Best Fiction for Young Adults and went on to win the Asian Pacific American Award for YA Literature. This summer, the critically acclaimed author is back with This Time Will Be Different, a brand new young adult novel that explores trauma, history, and the ways a community interprets the past. It doesn't hit shelves until June, but Bustle is thrilled to reveal the cover for This Time Will Be Different alongside an exclusive excerpt, which you can read below.
Seventeen-year-old CJ Katsuyama has spent her entire life failing to live up to her mother's type-A ambition. She is perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family's flower shop. Although she doesn't buy into Hannah's romantic notions about the meaning of flowers, she does knows her away around an arrangement. In fact, putting together the perfect bouquet might be a skill she can actually be proud of.
But when her mother decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII — a rift threatens to splinter not just her family and friends, but their entire Northern California community. For the first time in her life, it seems, CJ feels like she has found something she wants to fight for.
A rich and heartfelt story about family, community, and the long shadow of history, This Time Will Be Different is being released by Harper Teen this June, but you don't have to wait until summer to see it. Bustle has the exclusive cover reveal, below. Take a look:
Just in case the stunning cover design isn't enough to draw you in, Bustle also has an exclusive excerpt from This Time Will Be Different, which you can read right now, below:
Hannah calls it “a state of becoming,” but most people would probably call it chaos. The floor and work spaces are littered with leaves, stems, and thorns that haven’t made it into the giant wastebins by the tables. Flowers and greenery explode out of buckets on every flat surface that isn’t covered in piles of more greens and more flowers, all stripped of their lower leaves and thorns. The room is a riot of scarlet, green, ivory, and dusty pink.
In front of me sit twenty-five empty vases, their open mouths crisscrossed with grids of thin tape. When we’re finished, the empty grids will be transformed into a lush carpet of red and cream-colored roses and pure-white anemones, accented with holly berries, pepper berries, eucalyptus leaves, and ivy—perfect for tomorrow’s mid-December wedding. Perfect for the beginning of somebody’s happily ever after.
Hannah calls it “a state of becoming,” but most people would probably call it chaos.
That is, if you believe in that kind of thing.
As I trim the thorns off a rose stem, Hannah quizzes me.
“Fate,” my aunt says.
“Flax,” I reply, and she nods.
“Self-worth,” she says.
“White roses.” Another nod.
“Filbert or hazel . . . branches, I guess?”
“Nice!” My aunt beams at me. “Great job, CJ!”
Most kids get quizzed on stuff like state capitals, or French vocabulary words, or the elements on the periodic table. I get quizzed on the language of flowers. Hannah claims that by using it in the arrangements she makes for her clients, she can help fulfill their hearts’ desires. I have serious doubts about the scientific validity of her claim, but she says that if I want to be her apprentice at the shop, I have to know my flowers, so here we are.
By here I mean the workroom of Heart’s Desire, the flower shop that we’ve had in our family since the 1930s. This guy named Robert McAllister pressured my great-grandfather into selling it for almost nothing when the government threw Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II, but after years of struggle and hardship, my grandfather eventually bought it back because, as Mom and Hannah both like to say, Katsuyamas never quit.
Katsuyamas Never Quit. It’s practically our family motto.
The McAllisters have never quit, either. In fact, they’ve never quit so much that the family are now billionaires. My high school bears their name, as does the hospital I was born in and the library where I borrow books. It’s not exactly Capulets and Montagues or anything, but I can’t say that I don’t feel kind of resentful and weird about the whole situation. Mom is a partner at McAllister Venture Capital, so that tells you how much she cares about the family sort-of feud (not at all). Hannah, on the other hand, despises the McAllisters. Her second choice for the Katsuyama family motto would probably be We Hate the McAllisters. But I’ll come back to all that later. As Hannah and Mom also like to say, we need to be here, now.
Now, the phone rings, and even though we’ve just closed up for the night, Hannah answers it. You never know what a difference that last-minute bouquet might make in a person’s life, she always says. It might be just the thing that a grieving widow needs to brighten her evening. Or it might lead to a romantic reconciliation and then a baby. Or, if you want to be pragmatic about it, it could lead to another sale and possibly even a regular customer—something we could definitely use these days.
You never know what a difference that last-minute bouquet might make in a person’s life, she always says.
Turns out it’s one guy who wants one thing: a boutonniere. He says he’s right around the corner and he’ll be here in a couple of minutes. Doesn’t sound like a life-altering possibility to me, but I’m not running the store.
Ten minutes after closing time, I let him in the front door. He’s not young, maybe forties or fifties, wearing rimless glasses, khakis, a blue button-down shirt, a blazer, and a bow tie — kind of an unusual look in Silicon Valley. Especially the bow tie. Or maybe not — Silicon Valley is full of quirky people. “It’ll only take a minute. I just need a little flower to put in my lapel, here,” he says, and glances down at his blazer.
I happen to know that this will take about twenty minutes, not just one, but I smile and say, “Special occasion?”
Blazer Guy blushes a little. “First date. Thought I’d do a little something special, you know? Make a good impression.”
Before I can respond, Hannah comes bustling in from the back. “Oh, how sweet! What a lucky . . . woman?”
“Uh, yes. Woman,” Blazer Guy confirms with a nervous laugh.
“And it’s been a while since you’ve dated, perhaps?” Hannah continues.
He turns bright red and says, “Oh . . . is it that obvious? How could you tell?”
Because, you funny little man, I think, you’re wearing a freaking boutonniere on a first date.
“Oh, I just have a feel for these things,” says Hannah with an airy wave of her hand and a dirty look at me, as if she’s reading my mind. “Did you tell her that you’d be wearing a flower? Did you specify what kind?”
Blazer Guy shakes his head. “I just figured something like this . . . ?” He points to a yellow carnation. “Something bright, you know? Friendly.”
“Oh no! No, no, no. CJ, come on over.” Hannah beckons to me. “CJ’s my apprentice,” she informs Blazer Guy. “CJ, tell— I’m sorry, what’s your name?”
“Tell Richard about yellow carnations.”
For the record, I never actually asked to be Hannah’s apprentice. I’ve more or less grown up at Heart’s Desire, but I never really did anything beyond take the occasional phone order until this fall, when Hannah’s assistant found a better-paying job and left. Not long after that, Hannah asked me if I wanted to learn the art of floral design, and it turns out I kind of love it. I love the colors, the textures, the shapes, and the scents. I love how each flower has its own personality, and I love figuring out how to put everything together in ways that mean something.
“Yellow carnations say no. Like literally, that’s what they mean. N-O,” I say obediently, and Hannah nods her approval as Blazer Guy winces.
“Oh. I don’t want that.”
“I mean, they certainly have their uses,” says Hannah sweetly. “But I can tell you’re more thoughtful than that. You must be a bit of a romantic at heart.”
Blazer Guy scratches his head and smiles bashfully.
“You deserve better than carnations, and so does your date. Let us personalize it and make it perfect for you.”
Hannah proceeds to pepper Richard with silly questions: favorite color, favorite animal, favorite vacation spot. Then she gets personal: What’s his defining quality? What are his hopes for this particular date?
“I guess I hope she likes me enough for a second date?” he says uncertainly. “And I hope I like her.”
Hannah turns to me and asks, “Well? What do you recommend?” To Richard, she stage-whispers, “Prepare to be impressed. She’s really gifted.”
Right. No pressure or anything. “Hmm . . . First date, first date . . .” I drum my fingers on my chin, stalling for time. “It’s the wrong season for lilacs . . . pink rosebuds for new love?”
Even before Hannah frowns, I know I’ve failed. Pink rosebuds? Could I have picked anything more clichéd? He could have gone to Safeway for that advice.
“Mmm . . . Pink rosebuds . . .” Hannah’s nodding as if deep in thought, but it’s just for show. “Those are nice, but maybe a tad conventional, don’t you think? And a little presumptuous. We can do better.” She smiles at me kindly. “Try again.”
I feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment. I wonder if Hannah’s wishing she hadn’t talked me up so much. But she’s still smiling at me, so I try again. Think. Flowers that convey what Richard wants . . . what was it? He wants to like his date and he wants her to like him. So. “Asters for reciprocity? Or purple pansies and white violets? Think of me; take a chance on love?”
“Bingo!” Hannah claps her hands once, and I practically melt with relief. “I love it! Unique, unassuming, but still makes a statement. Pansies and violets are tricky to use in boutonnieres, but I think I can manage to make them last a couple of hours for you. CJ, get the materials ready. I’ll get the flowers. What do you think, Richard?”
“Asters for reciprocity? Or purple pansies and white violets? Think of me; take a chance on love?”
“Sounds great,” says Richard. But I mean really, what’s he going to say? When the Hannah train is rolling, you either jump on or jump out of the way.
Hannah goes upstairs, where she grows some of the unusual flowers and potted varieties that she likes to use but are harder to get from wholesalers. I prep the materials as ordered—sponge, tape, ribbon, pin—and lay them neatly on the countertop for Hannah before heading back into the workroom.
“So do you think that guy’s gonna have a good first date?” I ask when Richard has gone and Hannah returns to the back.
“I have no idea. But with those flowers, something good has to happen. He looked really hopeful, and that’s half the battle. Perfect choice, CJ.”
It’s just one tiny thing I’ve done well. Against the boundless field of bad decisions and disappointing performances that have been my life, it hardly even counts. But something unfurls inside me, fragile and tender as a new green leaf, and I can’t help smiling as I place a bunch of freshly declawed roses in a bucket of water.
“You have all the tools, and tons of talent. You have a natural feel for structure and color. I think you could be great,” says Hannah.
That should make me feel even better, but instead, my wobbly new confidence buckles under the weight of her praise and the looming expectation of greatness. I sweep a pile of leaves into a wastebin and say, “I don’t know. My arrangements kind of suck.” It’s true. Everything I do is like the zitty, sloppy, thirteen-year-old boy cousin of Hannah’s creations.
Hannah stops her own work and regards me for a moment. Her eyes are full of affection and her voice is serious when she says, “It’s not expert work yet, but Katsuyamas never quit. I know you’ll get there, sweet pea. The only thing that concerns me is your reluctance to open yourself to the magic of romance.”
At this, I forget my new leaf feeling altogether and roll my eyes. I love what we sell, and I love making people happy with it. But let’s not kid ourselves—it’s all an illusion.
The only thing that concerns me is your reluctance to open yourself to the magic of romance.”
“Don’t you roll your eyes at the magic of romance, CJ, or you’ll end up like your mom.”
“Oh, you know what I mean.”
I do. It’s not like Mom is some lonely, bitter old hag who’s dead inside. She’s beautiful and smart and funny, and she could probably date whoever she wants. But, to use her words, she has better things to do with her time than root through the trash heap that is online dating—a sentiment that Hannah finds highly offensive, since she, herself, has had a lot of romantic relationships that started online. Mom would say that proves her point.
Because the thing is, Hannah isn’t exactly a reliable authority on romance. However much positive influence her so-called magic may have on the happiness of other couples, it doesn’t seem to apply to her own relationships. Like, at all. Ever since I can remember, she’s gone through at least one, sometimes two boyfriends a year, each time convinced that this is the One, each time soaring on an updraft of romantic optimism—and each time, plunging to a bruising, painful breakup. Her life is a rom-com on an endless loop, cutting back to the beginning before it reaches the happy ending. I don’t know how or why she keeps at it. You’d think she’d know better by now.
Bottom line: Katsuyamas may never quit, but we also never succeed, at least when it comes to romance and true love. And if my own history is any indication, I may never succeed at anything else, either.