Review: Harmless Like You (Rowan Hisayo Buchanan)


Genre: General Fiction

Rating: ★★★★★


Written in startlingly beautiful prose, HARMLESS LIKE YOU is set across New York, Berlin and Connecticut, following the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old.

HARMLESS LIKE YOU is an unforgettable novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships and familial bonds, offering a unique exploration of love, loneliness and reconciliation.


Harmless Like You tells the tale of two souls lost in their world in separate times yet bonded by their relationship as mother and son. Yukiko, or Yuki as she is known in this book, is a Japanese raised in the United States who then stays after her parents move back to Japan. Her story sets throughout the 60’s until the early 80’s. Feeling like she could never fit in in both countries, this book showcases her feelings of depression and self discovery in her art. She struggles with lost of her best friend after years of living with her and and her single mom, only to find herself in the most unfortunate condition: falling in love with a person who will eventually hurt her.

Then there’s Jay, her son whose story sets in 2016. He’s struggling with fatherhood and is contemplating to do what his mother did to him when he was younger: leave his newborn baby daughter. His feelings of remorse, desperation and failure as a father brings him to find his mother and learn a bit of the truth of what happened to her all those years ago.

The story flashes back between these 2 stories in the most beautiful way one can imagine. The words are so well strung together that they are poetic and melancholic. They reflect so well Yuki’s troubles to survive as a female artist who happens to be a person of colour. Which makes things even more difficult back in the 60’s. I love how well the characters are portrayed that you feel connected to them. You feel such sorrows in the lives they led, in the decisions they make and in the way they dealt with others.

Every young woman should spend time with girls her own age. If only to find out who she is not

The plot is a bit slow, which is predictable for literature books such these, but it is pretty short with just over 300 pages. I enjoyed it immensely for the overflowing emotions displayed in this book. From the teen years up to age 30, we see Yuki struggle as a minority and a mother then eventually she had to find peace on her own terms. Even if it costed the people she loved.

I loved the ending of this book. It was not what one would expect but yet it fit the essence of this book. The ending was heartbreaking and non conclusive but isn’t that how life is sometimes? I am constantly reminded of how life can throw us surprises and sometimes, we are not strong enough to overcome them. If we are, then we do so in our own way even when others may not understand it.

A highly recommended read by me if you want something profoundly deep when it comes to a diverse read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Life is too easy for people with ordinary names…

I’m not sure life is easy for anyone, but okay…


6 thoughts on “Review: Harmless Like You (Rowan Hisayo Buchanan)

    • BookLoves_ Reviews says:

      Thank you for reading! Yes, I love how realistic endings give us strength in a way..that life is not meant to be easy and tough times create tougher people 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Kat says:

    It’s been a while since I read something deep and emotional. Time-jumping books is a genre I haven’t read much, but this seems too good to pass based on that small opinion. Plus, the cover is gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

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