Genre: Young Adult

Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori is a young adult novel about an adolescent girl named Yuki Okuda. The story spans through Yuki’s teenage years and takes place in four different locations, but mainly focuses in Kobe, a city four hours away from Tokyo. Readers go through different points of view to understand the full story and to get different perspectives on the events taking place in the novel.

Yuki is twelve years old when her mother commits suicide. After this horrible incident, Yuki is forced to grow up without a loving mother, and she has to deal with the grief on her own since her father is hardly responsive. While she attempts to cope with her mother’s death, she has to deal with her father and his new wife. The stepmother treats Yuki badly, and Yuki’s father does nothing to help the situation. Yuki grows up alone and must overcome her sadness while learning to move on with her life.

Shizuko’s Daughter is an inspiring book. Mori brings up a depressing topic and is able to make her readers feel involved with the story. Throughout the novel, many events in Yuki’s life can trigger an emotion in the reader whether that is sadness, anger, or joy. There are plenty of moments that will cause sadness or anger and can make the reader want to jump into the story to help and protect Yuki. This reaction is due to the wonderful way the story is set up and how it flows from year to year or month to month, depending on the chapters. There is a focus on important moments in Yuki’s life without meaningless conversations or events. Everything that happens is important to the story in some way or the other.

The chapters, in this novel, were published separately first before they were a part of Shizuko’s Daughter. It is interesting to see how well each of the chapters fit together. Even though the novel skips through Yuki’s life to focus on main points, Mori sets it up in such a way that it makes sense for the piece. The story goes through the difficult steps in Yuki’s life as she learns to deal with her mother’s suicide and her terrible father and stepmother. The readers see the key moments in Yuki’s life that define who she is as a person and who she will be in the future.

While the arrangement of the story is good, the characterization is even better. The characters are realistic, and with each chapter, there is a sense of the different personalities coming to life. The reader is able to get into the mind of the mother, father, stepmother, grandmother, and grandfather. This shows alternate ways to look at the piece. Each person sees Yuki differently, and readers are able to see Yuki in another light, depending on who is talking. This creates a more realistic version of Yuki and shows how the family views Yuki’s situation. The story is not a one-sided argument with Yuki being the only person the reader is able to get any feedback from.

Shizuko’s Daughter is such a breath of fresh air for young adult books. Mori tells a fascinating story that can be quite sad and depressing because of the topic, but it’s an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deep and motivating story, but be prepared for the heart-wrenching and tragic moments.

My Rating: ★★★★

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