I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Ah, the fake dating trope, always a fun time!
In Love & Other Natural Disasters, Nozomi is determined to make this summer her best one ever. She has an exciting internship in San Francisco, where she’ll get to stay with her fantastic uncles, and hopefully she can get a girlfriend, too. So when she arrives and stumbles into a chance to have a (fake) relationship who’s the epitome of everything she wants in a significant other, she dives right in. Of course, life tends to be more complicated than the romantic comedy stories she’s familiar with, and things start to get messy…
I’ve read a previous novel by Misa Sugiura, so I was happy to see her new story! It’s charming and entertaining. I liked Nozomi as the protagonist, even if she’s a little aggravatingly naive/wrapped up in her fantasy of what a relationship is. However, as frustrating as some of her choices were, seeing her grow and learn was wonderful. She has pretty solid character development, resulting from getting wrapped up in a relationship that’s not entirely good for her.
(PSA: If you ever find yourself in a relationship—romantic, platonic, familial, whatever—and realize that you’re giving a lot more emotional support than you’re receiving, find a way to protect your energy and space, even if it means leaving. That kind of arrangement is not fair to either of you. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.)
As for the other characters, I liked Dela and Max best, though Baba, Willow, Stephen, Lance, and Arden were also well-written. None of them feel one-dimensional, even if I wanted more of Stephen and Lance. They were so sweet! However, the best bond was between Nozomi and Max—what a great pair of siblings, in turns snide and teasing, then genuine and supportive.
On the subject of family, I adored the scenes that dealt with Baba’s storyline. The complexities of caring for an aging relative were presented so well here. You really feel for both the parent and the children who are trying to help. Furthermore, the way Nozomi was constantly grappling with whether or not she should come out to her rather homophobic grandmother will surely ring true for many readers. The nuances of loving someone, even when they aren’t perfect, is definitely the star of this storyline, and the theme of the book as a whole.
On another note, the development of the main romantic relationship was enjoyable to watch blossom, even though it was wrapped up in the slightly harebrained, slightly manipulative fake dating scheme. There is good chemistry established between Nozomi and the girl she ends up with, and I liked how their relationship felt like it developed organically. In fact, I wanted more interaction between them, especially at the end of the book. I wanted an epilogue, perhaps set a bit in the future, to see where they ended up after all the drama of the main plot was resolved. Oh, well; it was still a nice ending.
In the end, Love & Other Natural Disasters is a sweet, racially diverse, queer romcom full of drama, humor, and emotion. The pacing is decent, the dialogue great, and the romance endearing. If you want a fantastic twist on the fake dating trope, look no further! It’s not a perfect book—I could have used a little more resolution—but the examination of how difficult it can be to experience and express love was really well done.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Love & Other Natural Disasters will be published on June 8th, 2021!