Just be Cool, Jenna Sakai

About the Book:

Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai by [Debbi Michiko Florence]

Title: Keep it Together, Keiko Carter
Author: Debbi Michiko Florence
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: August 3rd, 2020
Genre: Middle Grade Novel

“Heartbreak is for suckers.” — Jenna Sakai

When Jenna gets dumped over winter break, it confirms what she learned from her parents’ messy divorce: Relationships are risky and only lead to disappointment. So even though she still has to see her ex-boyfriend Elliott at newspaper club, Jenna is going to be totally heartless this semester — no boys, just books.

But keeping her cool isn’t always easy. Jenna’s chief competition for a big journalism scholarship is none other than Elliott. Her best friend Keiko always seems busy with her own boyfriend. And cute-but-incredibly-annoying Rin Watanabe keeps stealing her booth at the diner she’s been hiding at every day after school. Rin is every bit as stubborn and detached as Jenna. And the more Jenna gets to know him, the more intriguing a mystery he seems. Soon Jenna is starting to realize that being a loner is kind of, well, lonely. And letting people in might just be a risk worth taking.

Book Review:

This was an adorable coming of age, romance story! I’m a huge fan of this genre, and while I do think middle school is a little too young to be thinking of romance, I still enjoyed this book. And I loved how it wasn’t just about romance. Jenna had to learn some important life lessons too and reconnect with her family.

Jenna Sakai is over love. After a fresh breakup with her boyfriend, all she wants to do is win her newspaper competition and forget about ever opening her heart again. But when everything with her family, friends, and even a cute new boy starts falling apart will she be able to keep her heart closed off?

The first thing that drew me to these books were the Asian main characters. This is a companion novel to Keep it Together Keiko Carter. I loved that book! And I loved how it wasn’t about her being Asian. I think we need more books about Asians getting to do everyday, normal things because it shows that they can be the main characters. Jenna, Rin, and Keiko are all Asian-Americans with completely different personalities and I loved them all!

Honestly, while I understood Jenna, I had a hard time connecting with her. I loved her drive and passion, and I think so many girls will relate to her. But I was able to empathize and understand Keiko more. However, I still adored her as a main character. I loved her growth and how she apologized and admitted her faults. I think that showed real maturity and also teaches young girls that being a strong woman means having the strength to apologize.

Rin was so sweet! He fit Jenna in a lot of ways, and they were able to push each other without being too similar. They were similar enough that they understood the other person, but they also listened to one another. And I loved how Leigh gently pushed them together. Leigh and her diner were a fantastic addition to the story!

The family drama felt very real, and I’m sure a lot of kids will be able to relate. I’m glad the parents were given a redemption arc, and the author emphasized the importance of talking about your feelings. This was a sweet, cute story that gently teaches middle schoolers about the significance of not closing yourself off to other people and how to maintain relationships. I loved it! Definitely would recommend it to any middle schoolers or even older kids 🙂 It’s a clean read without any unnecessary mature topics added in.


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