#ReadWithMC Reviews 'Mika in Real Life'

"When you are craving a loveable story with depth and true character development—this should be your next read."

mika in real life
(Image credit: HarperCollins / Art by Brittany Holloway-Brown)

For September’s #ReadWithMC pick, we pored over Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean. The story follows a down-on-her-luck 35-year-old woman named Mika who was fired from her job around the same time that her relationship ended in flames. Just when Mika thought she was at her lowest, her daughter Penny, who she gave up for adoption 16 years ago, randomly gives her a call. Thus begins Mika’s fake life, created to impress her daughter. But soon Mika’s lies catch up to her. Mika in Real Life is a poignant coming-of-age story that deals with race, adoption, and bodily autonomy, and it seems readers couldn’t get enough. 

Mika in Real Life is a beautiful and poignant story about parenthood, grief, and second chances,” writes @verbivoracious. “The writing is funny and sweet, while also being stunning and insightful. I loved it.” Meanwhile, @theberrybookreport says, “I loved the Japanese culture in this book. And the POV of Mika was an interesting one that we don’t see a lot of in books.”

Readers especially loved the characterization of Mika, and couldn’t help but fall in love with her and all of her imperfections. “[Emiko Jean] crafts characters you feel like you've known forever, you simultaneously root for them while wanting to shake some sense into them,” raves @theberrybookreport. “Mika was no different and, while she truly was the conductor of the hot mess express, she was beautiful and doing her best to grow up!” 

Each month, we gather up the reviews of our virtual book club members so anyone else looking for their next great read has a collection of recommendations. Here's what #ReadWithMC readers had to say about Mika in Real Life.


"Oh sweet Mika...what a mess she was! At 35 her life is a disaster, she can't keep a job, she loses everything, she can't remember to be anywhere on time, her relationship with her mother is terse at best and oh yeah...the daughter she gave up for adoption 16 years ago has resurfaced.

Have I piqued your interest yet?!

Emiko Jean is a wonderful storyteller and brilliant word weaver. She crafts characters you feel like you've known forever, you simultaneously root for them while wanting to shake some sense into them. Mika was no different and while she truly was the conductor of the hot mess express, she was beautiful and doing her best to grow up!

I loved everything about this story. The representation of adoption, Japanese culture, mother-daughter dynamics and a modern world of DNA testing bringing people together - we had a dash of it all and it came together in the most delicious way possible.

When you are craving a loveable story with depth and true character development - this should be your next read. It had the right amount of sweet moments with heartache, growth with real life elements of hardship and all of it was held together with an underlying current of family. Family looks different for us all, but its all the same at the end of the day: family is our one true meaning in life." 

@theberrybookreport

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"Emiko Jean has been on my radar for awhile now - she’s local! But this is the first book of hers I’m actually reading, and it was a delight.

Mika in Real Life follows Mika, a 35-year-old women who placed a child for adoption when she was 19. The now 16-year-old child, Penny, reaches out and Mika lies about her job, her boyfriend, her house and every other aspect of her life to impress the daughter she didn’t raise. But then Penny decides to visit….and all hell breaks lose.

I loved the Japanese culture in this book. And the POV of Mika was an interesting one that we don’t see a lot of in books. I was hoping for some emotional damage from this book, and that did not happen, but it was a great work of fiction about life, love, loss and motherhood.

It’s also a @gmabookclub pick, so you know it’s going to be good!

Let’s do some predictive text today.
“I lied about my life because ….”

Here’s mine:
I lied about my life because of the fact I have to read a book. 😂😂😂 Sounds pretty accurate actually…"
@booksandbedtime

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"💛 Book Review: Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean 💜

Actual Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Genre Defined by Me: Feminist Second Chance Story That Will Make You Cry

Read-Alikes: Skye Falling meets How Not to Die Alone

Goodreads Synopsis: Mika Suzuki is at her lowest point when she receives a phone call from Penny—the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. That one phone call changes everything.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

"Maybe that was the key to parenting: you couldn't keep your children from getting hurt, but you could give them a soft place to land."

My heart. 🥺🥺🥺

Mika in Real Life is a beautiful and poignant story about parenthood, grief, and second chances. The writing is funny and sweet, while also being stunning and insightful. I loved it. 💜

Each relationship is drawn with nuance and complexity, and each character felt fully realized, so they were lovable despite their flaws. Mika, a Japanese-American 35 year old who is down on her luck, is imperfect (like all of us), but she has an inextinguishable spark. She is an underdog you won't be able to help but root for.

There is so much to reflect on in this book, although the topics are explored in authentic and unpretentious ways. I'm left thinking deeply about race, ethnicity, and adoption; about the ways women "wield or keep silence" and how dangerous that can be; and about bodily autonomy and how women can feel betrayed by the "hostile landscapes" of their own bodies that don't comply when women say yes or no to motherhood.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who:
👩‍🍼Appreciates complicated and heartfelt explorations of parent-child dynamics
💪Is looking for an emotional and beautifully written character driven story
💔 Loves getting their heart broken and put back together by a book"

@verbivoracious

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"Book Review: MIKA IN REAL LIFE (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) by Emiko Jean

Genre: Fiction

When Mika's 16 year old biological daughter, Penny, contacts her, Mika constructs elaborate lies to enhance her life. But, will this be just the motivation Mika needs to make real, much needed changes in her life?

This was a nice, quick read and I enjoyed the double coming of age story of both Mika and Penny. Even though Mika is a little more than double Penny's age, she's still struggling to find herself. Parts of this story were predictable with the lies tumbling down around Mika and hurting Penny, but I enjoyed the aftermath and how Mika handled herself with true grace and maturity. This was a feel good story about the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, with a focus on adoption. One part made me cry a little, and I felt a fondness for both Mika and Penny as they struggled to establish and maintain a meaningful relationship.

Location: Portland, Oregon and Dayton, Ohio"

@rebeccas_book_reviews

"💛💜 BOOK FEATURE 💜💛

Thank you, Partner @bibliolifestyle @williammorrowbooks

Everyone always makes fun of me because of a book exists where a woman or mother is persevering, without fail…I LOVE it! Bring on Mika! Mika is literally swinging from the lowest rung in life. Everything is one big bag o’ suck. But her life is flipped upside down when she receives a phone call from the child she gave up for adoption 16 years prior. Could this be the key to turning Mika’s life right side up?!? Probably!!! Hopefully! Maybe yes! There’s nothing that I love more than a good redemption story and Mika might just be making my dreams come true!

⁉️ Have you read this yet? Thoughts?!?

⁉️ What’s your favorite perseverance/redemptions story?!?"

@kraysbookclub

Brooke Knappenberger
Editorial Fellow

Brooke Knappenberger is the Editorial Fellow at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from books and celebrities to fashion and beauty. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. Brooke is a proud St. Louis native and is currently living in New York City. Outside of work, you can find her either jamming out to Drake, reading a Sarah J. Maas novel, or shamelessly online shopping.