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It's Not Like It's a Secret

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Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 9, 2017

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Misa Sugiura

8 books504 followers

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5 stars
2,086 (20%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,487 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
May 16, 2017
This is maybe the most disappointing book I read this year. Cute contemporary, romance between two girls, ownvoices racial rep... yeah, it sounded great to me too. But I had so many issues with this book.


+ The first half is genuinely really cute! I actually loved the first half. Jamie and Sana have some great romantic buildup before they get together. There's an insta-crush, but things progress very well from there. They exchange poetry and are just generally incredibly sweet.

+ There's a good portrayal of racism between different nonwhite communities, which is really rare in YA! This book did not shy away from heavy topics. I definitely appreciated that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how well it was all executed.


+ Half of the moments between Jamie and Sana have a time jump. Look, I'm sorry, but I'm here for the lesbians, and if that storyline isn't pulling its weight, what exactly am I here for?

+ The plotting and actual handling of issues is a complete mess, especially in the second half. The author wanted to fit several different difficult storylines in, and they didn't tie together, and some of the issues ended up coming off badly just because they didn't get enough page time. For example, Sana's issues with anti-latina racism are really not handled very well. Not because the author didn't have the best intentions at heart, but because they don't get enough pagetime.

+ I can't handle cheating storylines. As soon as the cheating popped up, this book immediately went from a solid 3 to a 2. I don't see why a cheating storyline was necessary in a supposedly cute and fluffy book about teens falling in love. I have issues surrounding cheating, and I am almost never willing to ship a couple when one cheats on the other. But you know what, whatever. I hate cheating and I can't read about it and enjoy it.

I can't recommend this at all.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
June 17, 2021
Do you ever start a book a lot of people hated and you're like I don't get it! This is good! And then slowly, increasingly, over the course of hundreds of pages, it's like..."oh. I understand."

Is that relatable?

That's me and this book.

Just hundreds of pages of this:

This started out, well, fine. Normal contemporary. Maybe nothing to write home about but a-okay. But then...




Plus, like. Insta-friendships and insta-love and insta-resolutions.

And no fun whatsoever.

Bottom line: I am a dog inside an on-fire apartment. But also, I have a cool little hat.



if i go longer than a few days without reading a young adult contemporary in the summertime, i cease to exist.


taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month!

book 1: the incendiaries
book 2: last night at the telegraph club
book 3: dear girls
book 4: sigh, gone
book 5: frankly in love
book 6: emergency contact
book 7: your house will pay
book 8: convenience store woman
book 9: on earth we're briefly gorgeous
book 10: we are not free
book 11: searching for sylvie lee
book 12: the displaced
book 13: schoolgirl
book 14: sweet bean paste
book 15: little fires everywhere
book 16: trust exercise
book 17: front desk
book 18: the bride test
book 19: interior chinatown
book 20: it's not like it's a secret
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews526 followers
April 16, 2018
Fresh. Fantastic. Fearless.

I am not an uber-fan of YA but I will make an exception now and again. This phenomenon will happen for something special. Something perfect. What can I say? It's Not Like It's a Secret was that unicorn for me.

I mean.. what's there not to like? It had the main ingredients that I feel make a book unputdownable: relatable characters, a progressive plot-line, and of course, character development.

On the outside, this story looks like just another teen romance.. but it wasn't! Sana, a Japanese-American falls in love with her best friend.. Who just happens to be a girl. Falling in love.. was the easy part. What happens next.. is messy and complicated.

This book was completely unexpected and impossibly fresh. It was like I was breathing in a breath of fresh air.. having been berated and bogged down by the stereotypical romance story. This is ANYTHING but ordinary and absolutely extraordinary!! Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,244 followers
July 30, 2018
I made the mistake of thinking this was just a contemporary romance between two girls, but it actually has a lot more to the story. Racism being the most common theme throughout. There is racism from one POC to another, which is not often portrayed. Because of these themes, racism is very present and can make readers uncomfortable*. However, it is often called out by another character or Sana ponders what just happened addressing the racism head on. Stereotyping is one of the main ways racism occurs in the story. This is a very diverse story with Asian, Mexican, and queer characters present. I cannot speak on how offensive these are personally.

The romance was meh. It is pretty insta-love. And then the cheating storyline happens taking away from the “oh it’ll be a sweet romance.” Nope. I hated the justification of the cheating. This all was pretty frustrating.

But then I go back to the racism portrayal and the growth we see in Sana. Maybe if we saw this sort of thing more, I’d have enjoyed this less because the romance really turned me off. It’s nice to see people grow and learn from others after struggling and making some bad choices earlier on. I am curious how others feel about the portrayal, so I think I’ll come back to these reviews later on and see what everyone is thinking.

I won this through goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

*I will clarify that I said this can make readers uncomfortable, not me personally.
Profile Image for Aine.
94 reviews20 followers
January 18, 2018
This is one of those books that I go into so excited and then come out of feeling kind of betrayed. It feels like it should have been an amazing book, but there were problems. So. Many. Problems.

The Good:

-I mean, it's a a gay romance (yay!) with two non-white characters (YAY!), with actual supportive female friendships (YAY!!!).

-And Sana was pretty cute.

-But that's about the extend of the likes. For one, I didn't really feel anything about Sana. She was cute. But I didn't have any emotional attachment with her. She was cute. And...I mean, that's the extend of my feeling about her.

-Honestly, all the characters felt kind of flat to to me. There wasn't really any depth to them, which was disappointing.

-And it feels like all of Sana and Jaimie's big relationship happenings happened during time jumps. I WANTED TO SEE IT GROW, not suddenly have them speed ahead a couple of weeks were everything had happened behind the scenes, so to speak, which was sad.

-And I feel like Sana had some pretty problematic/racist opinions that weren't really addressed. I mean, I get what the author was trying to do, but still.

-And at times, the writing felt kind of...young. Overly simple.

And, the big thing. The thing that really pissed me off.

Rant over, and my review of this can be summed up as "no."
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,295 reviews343 followers
April 4, 2017
About: It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is a fiction novel written by Misa Sugiura. It will be published on 5/9/17 by Harper Teen, 400 pages. The genres are GLBT, Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, and Romance. This book is intended for readers ages 13 and up, grades 8 and up.

My Experience: I started reading It’s Not Like It’s a Secret on 3/31/17 and finished it on 4/3/17. This book is a great read! It’s fast paced, easy to read, and relatable. It has diversity like The Upside of Unrequited and light hearted like To All the Boys I Have Loved Before. I like the humor & diversity in this book. This book also have the feels of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by having foreign languages in the mix.

In this book, readers will follow Sana Kiyohara, a 16 years old Japanese American high school student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (yay! I used to live there! And yup I know about Wisconsin Dells & Lake Michigan :-)) being the only Asian girl who couldn’t fit in to the Midwestern Famer’s Daughter. She feels secluded not only by her looks but also by her strict parents. Then her family relocated to California where everywhere she goes, majority of the people are minority (Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, etc). She finally has friends who understands her because other Asian parents are strict too. Through discovering where she can fit in, she’s also discovering herself. In the meantime, she also accidentally found out a secret and hesitated whether she should come forward or keep it hidden. Her mom always taught her to “gaman” which means to endure when face with difficulties. This book also introduces stereotypes, racisms, and poetry.

This book is very relatable to many Asian readers but also a good reminders to the general population. The stereotypes labels about people are ongoing and this book just brought it out in the open for discussions. I like learning about Japanese cultures in this book and how alike they are to other Asians. This book is packed with a lot of happenings. There is no dull moment. I’m not good with poetry and the poems in this book are explained and I like that. I like Sana and all that she’s exposed to. I highly recommend the read to everyone!

Pro: friendship, humor, diversity, acceptance, stereotypes, fast paced, page turner, poetry, relatable

Con: none

I rate it 5 stars!

***Disclaimer: Many thanks to the author Misa Sugiura, publisher Harper Teen, and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review. Please assured that my opinions are honest.

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com
Profile Image for tappkalina.
650 reviews400 followers
July 30, 2021
There are those books you instantly forget about after you finished it.
I still think about this one a week later.

I felt all the cuteness and got my yearly dose of disgust at the same time. Almost dnf'ed it with a fucking big 1 star 72% in. I had to stop to get rid of my disgust because I just couldn't read more about this level of cheating.
Relationships are based on trust. If you cheat, how could the other person trust you?
And she cheated bacause she didn't trust her girlfriend in the first place. Then didn't want to tell her. If it wasn't for the boy who she cheated with but also who she led on, it would have remained a secret.
Like no. Just no.

Despite how I felt, I kinda changed my mind at the end? No, I'm not trying to redeem anything or anyone. Personally, if I was the love interest and for some miracle I could forgive the main character, I still wouldn't get back together with her. But unlike most romance stories, cheating in this one didn't feel like a random plot device. I think the main caharacter actually needed it to her character development.

Other than that, I adored the rest of the story with her family and it's backstory, the relationship between her parents and the discussion about racism and homophobia.

Plus I don't understand why writing a queer book without cheating is so hard. (?)
Profile Image for miya.
127 reviews13 followers
July 2, 2018
some uhh spoilers i guess because i wanna Rant

i am so ??? mad?? and confused?? and ugh??

look, the first half of this book? i was IN LOVE. i thought this was gonna be one of my favorites, even my favorite wlw story.
- it was a cute sapphic romance between two girls of color (it made me so happy when i found out jamie was mexican!!!! my gay, mexican self was very grateful).
- it talked a lot about racism, and not only about white people being racist, but about poc being racist, which was really interesting.
- sana's struggle with her sexuality?? yes relatable
- sana and jamie's relationship??? cute and soft poetry lesbians 10/10
- i liked the way sana's mom would talk in japanese, even if i had to google what was she saying
- friendship! girls supporting girls!
- i was even willing to forget an "i let out the breath i didn't realize i was holding" because i was loving this books.

AND THEN THE SECOND HALF. i was so angry and i hated it. i hated it so so so so much

- sana's friends saying homophobic stuff and it was never?? confronted?? not even by sana??
- when sana came out, they were all "you're so lucky. [...] think of how much easier it's going to be for you to get into a good college" uhhh excuse me??? and then "i have a gay friend, how cool is that?" and i was ??? just ?? uhhh

- sana being racist towards mexicans?? i have never wanted to punch someone as much as i wanted to punch sana. not only annoying, but also very hypocrital?? like in the first half sana would call her mother out for saying "all mexicans are ___" and then?? she says "mexicans don't do homework. everyone knows that the mexican kids get bad grades" and i was just ???
- and jamie excused her??? like, sana didn't even apologize and jamie was just like "it's okay let's talk later" ???
- also i don't think christina ever apologized either so uhhh

- sana and her friends calling girls slut all the time. like, even one of them said "that's not okay" once but everyone ignored it i guess

- sana's friends being so lesbophobic and it was never confronted, not even by sana, again but even worse
- i can't believe this actually happened i stg but they were telling sana that she should date boys?? even when they knew she is a lesbian???
- actual quotes:
* "come on, sana, just try. it's way better than kissing girls"
* "i mean, what if you're straight-or bi-and you just got a bad one that time? i mean, how do you know you only like girls?"
* and my favorite, "so maybe you just haven't met the right one".

- and then, when i thought it couldn't get worse: a cheating story line. and not only that, but cheating with a boy even tho sana's a lesbian.
- look, i am here for some lesbians figuring themselves out, but this?? first of all, she had a girlfriend at the moment, so uhh cheating. and second of all, she had already figured herself out. she even kissed a boy like in the first few chapters and hated it, so now why is she suddenly 'okay im gonna kiss him'?? it just didn't make any sense??
- and i know people can be questioning themselves again even if they have a label (i did it myself) but she stated multiple times she didn't like boys like at all and that she is "pretty firmly pro-girl" (that was after she kissed him and! she kept doing it later! it doesn't make sense!)
- and then this quote: "it's not cheating if (you think) the other person is cheating, too" uhh shut up?? cheating is cheating no matter what and it is wrong??

- also the thing about her father uhhh what???

so yeah i hate this!!! so much!! and i am so mad at myself!! i am so disappointed!!
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,726 reviews1,278 followers
April 16, 2017
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Endure. Bear it without complaining Her life’s motto and my life’s bane.”

This was a YA contemporary romance story about a gay Japanese-American girl.

I liked Sana in this although she did show poor judgement at times. I did like how loyal she was to her mother though.

The storyline in this was about Sana moving with her family to California as her father had a new job. She then fell for a girl called Jamie, and spent a lot of time not knowing whether Jamie liked her back or not, and also worrying over whether her father was having an affair after seeing some incriminating text messages on his phone. The romance between Sana and Jamie was quite cute, but I felt really sorry for Caleb, who clearly had feelings for Sana himself. I also disliked the cheating in this book, as Sana really did show poor judgement in that respect.

The ending to this was okay, although I wasn’t 100% happy with the way things ended with regards to Sana’s father’s affair.

6.5 out of 10
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
September 2, 2019
“We are who we are, and we shouldn't have to suffer for it, or prove anything to anyone.”

2 stars
TW: cheating, under-age drinking, racism (at times not explicitly challenged in text)
Rep: Japanese-American lesbian MC, Hispanic sapphic LI, multiple East-Asian-American SCs

The Writing
The writing was the most mediocre shit that I have ever read in my life. The sentence structure was incredibly repetitive, as was the writing itself. The main character going on about how she was in love with this girl, but she couldn't possibly be, but oh wasn't she?? I don't mind it when that's done in moderation. But please, for the love of god, don't make your entire book that. The MC's internal thoughts would just cycle through the same three internal monologues and it was boring as fuck.

The Plot/Pacing
I was here because this book was recommended to me as a cute f/f romance. So naturally, I came in expecting a cute f/f romance. And it was there for the first half of the book!! Despite the insta-love at the very beginning, I actually found the first half rather cute. But, of course, that couldn't last. First of all, what the fuck was the point of the cheating storyline?? Like, everything was going fine, they were doing f i n e, there was absolutely no need for more drama, and yet, there it was. I really don't like cheating storylines. And this one was just the cherry on top of a very badly prepared cake.

I also thought that the author definitely bit off more than she could chew when it came to discussing certain serious issues. This book does a good job of hinting at discussing racism between different people of color and how that's still an issue. However, it never... goes further with that conversation. The main character says a lot of racist things to her girlfriend's Latinx friends and it's just never addressed beyond "oh, but I didn't mean it in a racist way"... I am a white person, though, so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt.

The Characters
Sana was incredibly boring to me. She read as childish and unrealistic and not at all like she was a high school student. And this is coming from someone who is currently a high school student. I absolutely cannot imagine me or any of my (nonexistent) friends acting the way Sana does in this book, so that's on that.
And I'm not going to go on another spiel about how all of the side characters felt really underdeveloped, but all of the side characters felt really underdeveloped. I felt like Jamie's only identifying characteristic was that she was Sana's love interest and that is... just not the way to go.

There was so much potential here and I wish this had been done better because we really could have had it all with this one.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,133 reviews1,392 followers
August 31, 2017
This was AWESOME. It's one of those YA books clearly written by an adult who actually spends time with teens. The characters were messy and made LOTS of mistakes, perhaps most of all the main character Sana. I LOVED the queer girls of colour romance and I really appreciated the book's complex look at racism, stereotyping, relationships, and culture. And Sana's journey to learn to stop lying and hiding from the problems in her life was too real. I saw a lot of my younger (and sometimes current) self in her.
Profile Image for alexandra.
230 reviews1,504 followers
February 9, 2018
DNF at 30% // i was really excited to read this – a f/f contemporary ft a Japanese MC with a Mexican love interest?! yes pls. but.... i couldn't even get halfway. here are some thoughts:

(1) this main character is so. annoying. she's extremely stubborn and close-minded and refuses to see things around her. Sana is constantly arguing with her mother and it feels like she refuses to see things from her perspective. of course, her mom is very traditional Japanese and didn't grow up in America, so OBVIOUSLY, they won't agree on everything. but Sana seems shocked and annoyed that her mom isn't like "other moms" aka white moms. it's frustrating and heartbreaking. i feel like the same goes for her relationships with her friends.

(2) all the characters were cardboard cutouts of every stereotype ever – except Jamie, the love interest, who's "different." at Sana's new school she immediately becomes friends with a group of Asian girls who look down on the other cliques: the goths (which are over exaggerated), the Mexicans (she actually groups them like that), the cheerleaders, and so on. the school setting felt like exactly High School Musical. everyone around the two leads are telling them to "stick to the status quo," but it's SO unrealistic.

(3) the somewhat rascist remarks are really offensive. i think they're meant to be; they're rascist. but the way it was portrayed just made it seem artificial. i know people always make rascist comments and assumptions (i'm a POC myself), but this was a little too painful to watch. i think the author was trying to make a point on the rascism POC face, but instead it just made is feel clique-y and stereotypical. however painful, i think it was really necessary. i didn't enjoy hearing it but it needed to be said. (it's just the way it was shown... ugh i dunno)

(4) the romance itself is so cringey. i was excited when i heard this was going to be a f/f novel, but it's mostly Sana being extremely stalkerish and awkward. she immediately falls in love on first sight and tries to impress her in painful ways. Jame (the love interest), on the hand, seems unreadable. i can never tell if she actually likes Sana – as a friend or something more.

i wanted to enjoy It's Not Like It's a Secret, but it really really fell short. i can't tell if it's because i listened to the audiobook and i was trying out audiobooks or of it's actually disappointing. either way, i don't think i'll be continuing.
Profile Image for Christina.
Author 5 books397 followers
December 23, 2016
Loved this one. Sugiura gracefully tackled so many difficult and sometimes sensitive topics, while also creating fully-fleshed, relatable characters. Sana's voice is spot on. I can't wait to have this gorgeous book on my shelf to share with my students.
Profile Image for Brooke.
276 reviews137 followers
June 10, 2017
A few months back, I became aware that SECRET had cheating as one of its largest themes. Admittedly this discouraged me a bit, but I was still intrigued to read it as it was on my TBR for almost a year.

Surprisingly the cheating characters wasn't my biggest gripe (although it really ruined my experience)- it was the instalove between the two MCs, Sana & Jaime. Except physical appeal, I had no clue why these two were attracted to each other. This led me to not believe their relationship as it evolved, nor care about the outcome. I've been turning away from YA romances recently but anything that's F/F you can pretty much bet I have on my TBR so naturally I was rooting for their relationship. However, it quickly fizzled out considering that Sana & Jaime really had nothing in common & it was more of an opportunistic occurrence out of convenience rather than a genuine romance.

Add onto this & the fact that the MCs basically cheat on each other- it's more complex than that, but no spoilers 🚫. Their lack of communication really turned me off- I know this is a realistic aspect of many teen relationships, but I already wasn't feeling it, so. 👻 Sana also discovers that her father is seeing another woman, which brings some interesting conversations about Asian culture & her mother's opinion on it.

There were a few pros to this book, so it wasn't a complete wash. The racism between minorities & prejudices of Asian & Mexican cultures raises necessary & uncomfortable discussions & tackles stereotypes. While I can't say it was all tackled with finesse & gentleness, I am glad that Sugiura included them. I'm not surprised by Sana's mother's reaction to Sana's coming out, but I did appreciate the role her parents had in her life.

I was really hoping IT'S NOT LIKE IT'S A SECRET to be heavy on the romance & less on cheating/instalove/shitty stereotypes, but I'm satisfied that I at least know I didn't miss out on anything. The pacing is fine, the prose could have been stronger (as well as the poem concept!), & the ending is too tidy, but overall a halfway decent read on a day off.
Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews263 followers
May 18, 2021

rtc < 3


gays be like "me and this girl have been exchanging emily dickinson poems in each others' lockers and staring at each other for prolonged moments of time in my room, do you think she likes me?????"

anyways i'm only 55% through this but oh my god guys i have NEVER shipped a couple harder... (ppl do say it gets worse in the second half though so i am very afraid)
Profile Image for Ilana.
Author 4 books201 followers
November 20, 2016
Misa Sugiura is a beautiful writer, and this book is wondrous, engaging, important, and will be beloved by many.
Profile Image for Sonia.
Author 2 books49 followers
February 23, 2017
This book was different than many other YA I've read in its honest and complex portrayal of race, all within the context of a burgeoning lesbian romance. Sana is a believable and relatable protagonist, caught between trying to satisfy her strict parents and also feel like part of her peer group. I loved the tie-ins with poetry and the way Sana was able to find herself in the words of others.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,696 followers
September 9, 2017
Wow. I am blown away. This was a challenging book to read, but the realistic and frank discussions about racism and prejudice were refreshing, difficult, but necessary.

- To address the elephant in the room: yes, this book does has several instances of racism towards Mexican individuals and there are some parts that are certainly difficult to read. However, I felt like the racism was either challenged or addressed, either in-text, through internal monologue, or clearly through subtext.
- Sana was a fantastic protagonist. She is confused, ignorant, lost, and makes many mistakes, some of which I can see some readers seeing as unforgivable. I see Sana as a very realistic teenager and someone who doesn't know what is right, and I think that vulnerability made her a brilliant character.
- The discussions around sexuality were nuanced and complex, especially when intersecting with culture as well.
- All the characters in this book were developed, fully realized, and interesting, especially Sana's family and their dynamic.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for belle ☆ミ (thisbellereadstoo).
1,716 reviews140 followers
June 30, 2020
other than sana's personal problems, i appreciated that the book focused highly on racism. for this book, the dialogue remains mainly between the asian and mexican community. about the unwarranted accusations they faced because of how they dress, the overly perpetuated stereotypes based on their race, and the unsaid expectations because of the colour of their skin. even between the two minority groups, there’s discrimination based on bias and preconceived notions.

sadly, the execution was a little underwhelming and lacklustre. i thought that some of the characters should be called out for their words/actions. there were multiple times where sana could’ve spoken up for the people being stereotyped, and there were times where she could’ve spoken up for herself when she faced discrimination. i know it’s all part of her character development, that she slowly learns that she shouldn’t keep quiet anymore, but i wish there were conversations after that offered her a chance to be vocal. also, i didn't like some of the characters especially one of sana's friend who was very pushy.

sana and jamie's romance was a little too fast. for sana, it was love at first sight while for jamie, we can see the attraction build up. oh, and about sana,
honestly, i don't even want to talk about the family drama because i totally skimmed during those parts. it took a huge chunk of my enjoyment out.

that's about it. i'm sad that i didn't like it. i really enjoyed misa sugiura's other book that i read this year too. unfortunately, it's not like it's a secret didn't work out for me.

Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,568 reviews259 followers
June 1, 2017
When Sana Kiyohara and her family move to California from Wisconsin, she decides it's time to be honest with herself. She has a crush on her best friend, Jamie Ramirez. She's smart, beautiful, and different from anyone Sana's known before. There are a few problems with this - Sana's new friends don't trust Jamie's, Jamie's friends don't seem to want Sana around, and a classmate named Caleb appears to have more than friendly feelings for Sana. Plus, Sana doesn't know how well her strict Japanese parents will react to Jamie as a friend, let alone as a girlfriend. Not to mention, her father's affair is becoming to obvious for her to just ignore. Sana always thought that the hardest thing would be telling people that she wants to date a girl (and revealing that the truth about her father's affair), but it turns out that it's the stuff that comes afterward is what's really difficult and complicated.

I really lucked out with It's Not Like It's A Secret by Misa Sugiura. I won an ARC of this YA debut via Epic Reads (it's always exciting to receive unexpected bookmail!) and so far it easily ranks as one of my favorite reads of 2017. I'd even go so far as to say that this is going to be one of my all time favorite YA Contemporaries. YA Contemporary isn't normally one of my go-to genres, but this debut immediately caught my attention as a diverse LGBTQIA contemporary romance with a Japanese-American and Mexican-American at the center. Sana is a great leading character and she feels incredibly real and relatable. She's flawed, makes mistakes, and is kind of selfish; she feels like she could walk out right out of the pages of the novel. Sana also really grows into herself and that's wonderful to see over the course of the story. I can also say the same about Jamie - it was wonderful to get to know her too. I also want to mention that I was also intrigued by reading more featuring Japanese-American culture in YA. I started studying Japanese in college and I'll have to admit that I was pleased to recognize and/ or remember the Romaji that appears (this book uses a different system than the one I've primarily been studying). On top of everything, the author gracefully discusses difficult topics with great skill and sensitivity.

Overall, It's Not Like It's A Secret by Misa Sugiura is the best YA Contemporary I've read this year and is one of the best YA debuts of the year at that. This coming-of-age novel is an absolute must-read. If you like Becky Albertalli, David Leviathan, and Rainbow Rowell, you will definitely like Misa Sugiura. I'm looking forward to her next project!

Profile Image for Gillian.
92 reviews38 followers
May 22, 2022
It’s Not Like It’s A Secret (3.5/5) by Misa Sugiura follows Sana, a 16-year-old Japanese-American girl, and how she navigates the world as she’s realizing she’s a lesbian, moving across the country for her father’s new job, suspecting her father of having an affair, and juggling romance and conflicting expectations at her new school in California. Almost immediately after moving, she falls for Jamie— a Mexican-American schoolmate who she joins the cross-country team for— and soon after, drama ensues.

Sugiura does a great job of exploring Sana’s internal monologue and how she deals with racism that she experiences, her own racism and biases, her strict mother and dysfunctional family dynamics, peer pressure and lesbophobia from her friends, and more. I really love how the book explores different kinds of racism and interracial racism/dynamics (anti-Asian and anti-Latinx racism).

Sana is definitely not perfect, and I found myself getting frustrated at the many mistakes and comments she makes throughout, but it’s also easy to understand how she would get mixed up in a web of lies and confusion and trying/failing/succeeding at doing the right thing. Even though it made me angry to read, I can empathize with her and I could understand, to an extent, why she did all that she did. However, it was frustrating seeing different characters’ racism, especially Sana’s racist biases against Jaime’s friends, because you expect better from her and it felt like that part was mostly brushed over until near the end.

My biggest critique is that since the author is not a lesbian, she doesn’t exactly capture and articulate the nuances of comphet like a lesbian would. While I appreciate that she’s trying to capture the internal monologue of a young teen coming to grips with her sexuality, it felt inauthentic and this left me feeling frustrated at times.

Overall, while this was book was a bit anxiety-inducing for me as I found myself wanting to yell at the main character “DO THE RIGHT THING!!” it remains fairly lighthearted, I really enjoyed it, and I recommend it!

CW: racism, cheating, lesbophobia, racial profiling from police
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
July 19, 2020
3.5 Stars

CW: Racism and stereotyping,

The wonderful thing about being part of the Goodreads community is reading reviews from people whose world views, life experiences and personal truths are different from my own. Through my lense and with my YA librarian glasses on this book is a cutely awkward high school love story. I enjoyed the dynamics between some of the characters and thought the romance, whilst a bit instalovey and shallow, was still sweet. Readers be warned though, there are some hugely racist comments and attitudes throughout the novel between different POC. It is an important issue to tackle but it just seemed to be casually treated as ‘the way things are’. In my opinion there were little to no attempts to deal with this inappropriate behaviour in the novel so that was disappointing. I am also not sure if this was an authentic or healthy coming out journey so I recommend reading some own voice reviews as well.

Overall though this was an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Not My High.
249 reviews674 followers
July 16, 2022
Okay, I finished it and... I don't feel disappointed. Surprisingly!

TW racism, homophobia, cheating

So first of all - it's wlw with Asian-American and Mexican-American characters representation.

Main character is 16 and it's pretty much accurate, because sometimes she does stupid-immature things. I HATE when character can't communicate, I feel so frustrated, idk.

But I really liked relationships - not very obvious and definitely complicated. MC's problems were... Natural. ALSO ✨gays✨

WLW representation, LGBTQ+ people of colour, the issues of racism and homophobia make this book worth to be read. And the ending wasn't black or white - it shows that some things aren't beautiful or easy.

+ THE POETRY, if you love poetry you will be in love
++ "Asian mum syndrome" is super interesting
Profile Image for lov2laf.
714 reviews1,046 followers
May 26, 2019
This is available as an audiobook on Scribd. I think it has a lot of relevant observations when it comes to being the child of immigrants and I'm happy to see more representation of diversity in lesfic.

That said, I became bored. The story takes on a lot and, upon hearing that cheating is ahead, I don't care to finish.

No rating.
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,305 reviews220 followers
April 14, 2018
As a white, middle-aged American woman, reviewing IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET is difficult. I grew up in a small town and could count the number of nonwhite students on one hand. Having never attended a large, multiracial school, I don’t know if students sticking to their race groups is common, or whether the rampant subtle and not so subtle bias and racism between cultures.

Race and bias permeates every aspect of IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET. I suppose my white privilege doesn’t see race as much of an issue, because as a person in the majority, I don’t have to face it. I was surprised to see so much blatant, overt racism and cringed often throughout the book.

The most special aspect of Misa Sugiura’s was Sana’s relationship with her hyper-critical mother. Sana discovered father’s affair, destroying her respect for him. She alternates between feeling sorry and angry for her mother while wondering if telling her mother would help or hurt. This leads to a surprising, heartbreaking and interesting conclusion.

The lesbian romance aspect of IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET underwhelmed me. At times I loved the friendships, at times I found them limiting and unhealthy.

IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET may be a better or worse book than my experience with it. I’m interested in reading how Japanese and other Asian readers feel, as well as how Latinas feel.
Profile Image for Meags.
2,114 reviews373 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 27, 2019
DNF @ chapter 8

I was looking forward to this one, but the prominent themes of racial stereotyping and the way it was (mis)handled irritated the hell out of me. In the few chapters I slugged through I was constantly facing one unlikeable character after another which is not the way to endear me to a book. . I'm out.
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