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Mika in Real Life – Emiko Jean

Thank you so much to the publishers and Netgalley for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

At thirty-five, Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. Her last relationship ended in flames. Her roommate-slash-best friend might be a hoarder. She’s a perpetual disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. And, most recently, she’s been fired from her latest dead-end job.

Mika is at her lowest point when she receives a phone call from Penny—the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. Penny is determined to forge a relationship with her birth mother, and in turn, Mika longs to be someone Penny is proud of. Faced with her own inadequacies, Mika embellishes a fact about her life. What starts as a tiny white lie slowly snowballs into a fully-fledged fake life, one where Mika is mature, put-together, successful in love and her career.

The details of Mika’s life might be an illusion, but everything she shares with curious, headstrong Penny is real: her hopes, dreams, flaws, and Japanese heritage. 

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for such a long time now. Emiko Jean is an author whose YA books I love. So, when I heard she was releasing a general fiction novel I added it to my TBR immediately. This is very different from Emiko Jean’s YA books but in such an amazing way. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this for so many reasons.

Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. She has just lost her job, her last relationship ended in flames and she is a disappointment to her parents. She is at her lowest point when she receives a call from Penny, the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. Penny is determined to forge a relationship with her birth mother and Mika longs to be someone Penny is proud of. So, when what starts out as one little white life about her life slowly snowballs into a whole fake life, what could possibly go wrong?

Mika in Real Life is a beautifully written story that perfectly manages to balance tragedy and disaster with hope and optimism. The prologue had me hooked into the story right away and when weaved with secrets of Mika’s past I could not put it down.

Mika is an excellent main character. I’ve certainly not been through what she has, but her feelings of uncertainty and not being good enough are incredibly relatable. We see her grow and learn more about herself throughout the book and this left me feeling hopeful about my own life.

This book explore a number of different kinds of relationships. We see Mika and her new connection with Penny, her budding relationship with Penny’s adoptive father Tom and her deliberate distance with her mother Hiromi. We also see her constant bond with her best friend Hana and how Mika feels about Penny’s late adoptive mother Caroline. Each of these relationships helps Mika to learn about herself and break free from the control her past trauma has on her. In turn this allows Mika to strive for a future she can look forward to.

Right at the centre of this book is motherhood. I loved how it depicts all the different mothers in this story, Mika, Caroline and Hiromi as unique people. They have all made their mistakes and don’t always understand their children but their love is always there. It also beautifully shows mother-daugther relationships and how those vary too. It is stunning.

Overall, I would highly recommend this beautiful book with its heart-wrenching storyline and underlying humour. I’m sure anyone who reads this will get invested in the lives of the loveable characters in this book. Mika’s journey towards self-acceptance is truly uplifting to read. I would highly recommend this book. 

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