Hello all! I’m happy to be a part of Turn the Page Tours’ book tour for HIMAWARI HOUSE by Harmony Becker today! HIMAWARI HOUSE is a YA contemporary graphic novel about three foreign exchange students and the pleasures, and difficulties, of adjusting to living in Japan — and it definitely stole my heart, so I’m excited to share my review of this humorous, heart-warming, and introspective novel.
Living in a new country is no walk in the park—-Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.
Harmony Becker was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the illustrator of George Takei’s graphic memoir THEY CALLED US ENEMY. She currently live sin Mexico City.
HIMAWARI HOUSE was a five star read for me, and definitely one of my favorite graphic novels that I’ve read so far this year. Prior to this year, I’d read very few graphic novels (or webcomics, manga, etc) and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to read so many excellent ones over the course of the year, and that I’m no longer missing out on so many beautiful stories.
HIMWARI HOUSE has an engaging and compelling story, and it’s told so beautifully through both its words and art. Even in black and white, the pages of this book hold so much life and color. I loved the art style, and throughout the entire story I felt like the rendering of characters and their emotions was so effective, and it really made me connect to them on a deeper level than if it’d been told purely through prose. Furthermore, the most emotional and the most humorous moments throughout the entire novel were always making a bigger impact because of the art.
Beyond how much I enjoyed the art of the book, I was so sucked in by the story. The three main characters all have their own hopes, dreams, fears, and struggles — they all get the spotlight at different times throughout the novel — and it’s amazing to watch them make a small family in Himawari House and lift each other up. I was smiling and laughing through so much of this novel, and I also was gut-punched a few times here and there while following their journeys in Japan.
The three women fall in love, have their hearts broken, struggle with language barriers, miss their families, and grapple with their sense of identity; all of these things are handled with care and love and I don’t know how it all fits into the pages of this novel without feeling rushed and with none of the storylines being lost, but it all melds into a gorgeous story that I think any reader will be compelled by.
Ultimately, even if many of the challenges the characters were facing throughout the book weren’t something I could personally relate to, I loved every minute of their stories and was warmed by a broader message that it’s okay to not have everything figured out at 18, or at 25, or ever. HIMAWARI HOUSE was a gorgeous novel about finding family in any of the people we’re lucky enough to have stumble into our life, making mistakes and growing from them, finding ourselves and figuring out what makes us happy, and being brave enough to do the things in life that might scare us, but help us grow.