Thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All quotes are from an advanced copy and are subject to change in final publication.
I must say that after not totally loving (but still appreciating!) This Time Will Be Different, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Love & Other Natural Disasters. Despite my initial misgivings, or perhaps because of them, I was completely blown away by how much Love & Other Natural Disasters impacted me. A testament to strong family ties, sense of identity, and intergenerational communication barriers, Love & Other Natural Disasters is a great example of a truly contemporary novel.
Title: Love & Other Natural Disasters
Author: Misa Sugiura
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Source: Physical ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Representation: Japanese-American protagonist, Taiwanese love interest, half Japanese love interest, Black wlw secondary character, multiple wlw romances, m/m couple
Content warnings: homophobia, memory loss
Synopsis: When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.
That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
Did somebody say disaster gay?
If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s love.
When Nozomi finally kisses her long-time crush, she’s understandably thrilled. Unfortunately, that ecstatic feeling is short-lived when she overhears said crush calling her boring behind her back. Nozomi decides to prove her wrong during her trip to San Francisco by giving herself a total makeover. Nozomi is determined to make her appearance and her personality more interesting as an archives intern at an art museum. She gets the perfect chance to introduce Nozomi 2.0 to the world when she meets Willow, who is exactly the kind of girl Nozomi can see herself falling for.
The best part? Willow is also gay and works at the museum where Nozomi will be interning under her uncle’s supervision. The not so great part? Willow is taken, and her girlfriend Arden is equally stunning. The slightly better part? Arden breaks up with Willow, giving Nozomi the perfect opportunity to be her shoulder to cry on.
The super complicated part? Still heartbroken over Arden, Willow employs Nozomi to act as her fake girlfriend. Optimistic and romantic Nozomi agrees, but hatches her own plan to make Willow fall in love with her, rom-com style. Her hopes soar even higher when she learns that Arden has already moved on with Dela, an artist installing an exhibit at the museum.Ddespite getting off on the wrong foot with Dela, Nozomi wants her relationship with Arden to be successful – because the happier Arden is, the better Nozomi’s chances are of winning Willow’s heart.
While Nozomi is coming up with her own top secret plan, her uncle Stephen and father conspire to convince their mom to move into an assisted living facility. Baba stubbornly refuses all of their attempts to show her how wonderful life could be and chooses to ignore their not-so-subtle hints. Baba insists that she is perfectly capable of living on her own in her house, despite her increasing forgetfulness. Apparently, scheming and denial run in the family.
I am once again a proud grandma rooting for today’s teens.
“We are all connected by our aspirations toward happiness – by our wishes on stars.”
Nozomi Nagai is the definition of your classic contemporary romance protagonist. Her head is stuck in the clouds and she views the world through rose-tinted glasses, sometimes refusing to see the truth that’s right in front of her. (She gets that from her grandma.) She gets completely swept up in her own fantasies about what a relationship with Willow would be like, and who she could be in those scenarios. Coming back to reality and planting her feet on the ground isn’t Nozomi’s strong suit, but as she starts to embrace who she is and not who she thinks she should be, her ideal rom-com romance starts to take a different shape as well.
Let’s talk about that cover for a second, and why it is absolutely stunning on many levels. The artwork is obviously gorgeous and features the protagonist with three different love interests of varying ethnicities and races. Everyone’s individual style is clearly and beautifully reflected on the cover. And honestly? Just looking at it makes me smile.
You can’t go wrong with any of the characters featured on the cover alongside Nozomi. Willow, Arden, and Dela are all their own people with dreams and fears. They each have a depth that isn’t sacrificed so that they only serve the plot. I was rooting for every single one of these characters to achieve their goals, not just Nozomi.
Family is complicated, aka the understatement of the century.
It’s the same old calculation: what will it cost me to be my truest self around my grandmother? It’s so hard, and I’m so tired of making it. But tonight, I’m beginning to see another side: What will it cost her? Is it worth challenging her that way when she’s already struggling?
As Nozomi’s plan starts to unravel and she begins to question her feelings for Willow, she also struggles with deciding whether or not to come out to Baba. Having witnessed her grandma’s treatment of her uncle Stephen and his husband, even Nozomi can’t deny that Baba is homophobic. One of Nozomi’s main challenges outside of wooing Willow is reconciling the fact that her fun, loving grandmother might also treat her differently because of her sexuality. Love & Other Natural Disasters is a wonderful example of how complex human beings and our relationships can be.
Another relationship that I really love is between Nozomi and her brother, Max. Max is undoubtedly the realist in the family and helps ground Nozomi when she strays a little too far from reality. Although they might bicker from time to time, Max is just looking out for his sister and Nozomi comes to appreciate that. They have that kind of sibling bond that only comes out of having to deal with needy parents and problematic relatives, and that might be my favorite part of the book.
I do wish that we got a little more closure in regards to Baba, but that’s life, isn’t it? We don’t always know how certain stories end, and that’s okay. We can’t guarantee how our loved ones will react to our truths, and we can’t guarantee that they will be taken care of. Misa Sugiura fully embraces this; her books are messy and open-ended, which is exactly what I appreciate about them.
Allies and family members in particular should take Misa Sugiura’s messages to heart. Whether you’re out and proud or biding your time until you’re ready, Love & Other Natural Disasters is the book for you.