I received this book for free from Pinoy Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Blossom Among Flowers #1
on July 18, 2015
Genres: YA Romance, Young Adult
Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iBooks • Add to Goodreads
Unlike most people, 17-year old Hikaru Saito likes being invisible. Perfectly happy with her nose buried deep in her growing manga collection, she hardly notices how her "harmless hobby" is taking control of her life. But when she fails an important exam, Hikaru is forced to spend more time with her studies and her new tutor, fellow student, campus genius, and golden boy Takeshi Hinata.
Unfortunately for Hikaru, Takeshi's popularity in school forces the spotlight on her too. His adoring fans don't like seeing how much time they spend together and punish her for it. Luckily, Tetsuya Sakuishi, a new young and beautiful teacher, is always there to save the day for Hikaru. It doesn't help that his smile distracts her, however.
Like her tormentors, Hikaru cannot understand why Takeshi keeps showing up in her life long after the tutoring sessions are over. As if the complications of grueling exams and university applications weren't enough, a haughty socialite mother, an imposing business mogul father, and a princess-in-hiding all come bearing down on Hikaru. Through it all, Takeshi is there, looking at Hikaru like she's not invisible after all.
Oh my goodness.
If you’ve seen my Twitter feed for the past few days, I just broke my personal rule
of not spamming everyone else’s feed with my tweets. But man, I had to. This book
unleashed a dam of feels that was just too hard to keep to myself. Let me just give you a
fair warning: if you’re not into J-Dorama or anime, this may not be your cup of tea.
But if you are, prepare for MAJOR FEELS.
This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill.
If you’ve at least seen Meteor Garden/Boys Over Flowers or know about its
Japanese counterpart, Hana Yori Dango, you’ll find an uncanny similarity to the plot. But
there was so much more to Blossom Among Flowers than just a fan fiction of the said
titles. I needed an entire day to calm down after reading the book because I could not
contain my feels (evidence of which is all over my Twitter feed).
Having read and reviewed a previous Jay E. Tria novel, I knew the prose was going to be
just as clean, fluid, and descriptive. I have to say that the author toned down
the colorful imagery and made the language more apt for the YA audience (definitely a good thing in my book). It made me focus on the emotions of the characters, as well as the story’s setting. Tria knows how to weave a story that would wrap around your consciousness and make you feel as if you were right there in Japan, breathing the same air as her characters.
That said, Blossom Among Flowers captured the feels in Hana Yori Dango (HYD), sans
the craziness seen in the manga and anime. Similar to the manga’s protagonist
Tsukushi Makino, here we have Hikaru Saito, an awkward, underperforming high school
student who got into serious trouble upon failing an important exam. While Blossom
didn’t have an antagonistic Tsukasa Domyouji, it had Takeshi Hinata, a genius of a
student whose family also happened to be rich and influential. Hikaru needed help to
bounce back from her academic woes, and the stoic, anti-social Takeshi came to his
rescue. But even before Takeshi knew about her problems, a young and charming teacher
named Tetsuya Sakuishi took interest in her.
I’ve been burned by one too many love triangles, so I try to veer away from these stories as much as possible. I was pleasantly surprised with Blossom, and I was thankful that I suspended my dislike for love triangles in order to give this story a chance. I didn’t even realize the story was a homage to HYD until I saw the three characters interact. If you swooned over the love triangle between Shan Chai, Dao Ming Si, and Hua Ze Lei in Meteor Garden, trust me, this will have you squealing like your butt was on fire. Albeit the pacing in the beginning was a bit slow, the characters grew on me. Hikaru was initially too clumsy and scatterbrained for her own good, but she redeemed herself and managed to recover from her waterloo subjects with much perseverance. She wasn’t as aggressive or brutally frank like Shan Chai/Makino, but Hikaru had her own brand of determination that was uniquely hers.
Meanwhile, Takeshi was definitely no Dao Ming Si/Domyouji, but in his own way, he was also able to uphold his convictions despite the domineering presence of his parents. Let’s just say he was more like the relaxed, non-“war freak” version of Domyouji. But don’t be
fooled…Takeshi brought out the big guns at the end and that made me swoon like no
one’s business. Seriously. It’s a huge thing for a YA romance story to make me swoon
like I was reading an adult novel (minus the steamy scenes, of course).
Takeshi was the character that mostly kept his thoughts to himself, although his
feelings definitely showed in more ways than one. I just love it when a story makes me feel the romance instead of the characters professing it out loud. It’s such a refreshing thing to see in a romance story.
And Tetsuya. Maaaan, Tetsuya. Back when HYD and Meteor Garden were the craze, I was
rooting for Rui Hanazawa/Hua Ze Lei. While Tetsuya wasn’t the brooding type (or a violinist), I was silently cheering him on, especially when he was at the right place at the right time to rescue Hikaru from bullies. It didn’t bother me one bit that he happened to be doing internship as a teacher in the same school. He was an all-around good guy and I couldn’t help but want him to get the girl. I wish he had more page time in the story, and I would’ve wanted him and Takeshi to have equal footing in Hikaru’s eyes. But if you’ve watched/read the anime and manga, you already know what happened.
While I mostly made comparisons of the story and characters with the anime/manga, Blossom Among Flowers was a heartfelt read on its own. The liberties Tria took in this novel was just so good that it spoke to my otaku feels that had been dormant for years. As someone who appreciates Japanese culture and its people, Tria got every nuance on point. The dialogue, narrative, and expressions used in the story flowed in one cohesive structure. Clearly, the author had a deep respect for the culture she was trying to capture. Such evident appreciation for other people’s way of life is a mark of a writer who knows and respects her craft.