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Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills

Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills - Fred Chao Struggling as an underpaid and undervalued sushi chef in New York City, John Hiro is having an existential crisis. He’s not sure that he’s the boyfriend that the lovely girlfriend Mayumi deserves nor does he have any idea where his life is headed. With all these questions floating around in his head, can he learn to relax and just accept things the way they are?

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.

When this arrived in the mail from Tor, I honestly had no idea what I was looking at (don’t take this statement too literally, I knew it was a book). The cover looked interesting and the tagline of Scott Pilgrim meets Bruce Lee intrigued me (this despite never having read a Scott Pilgrim book) so I was excited to dive in.

What initially leapt out at me was Chao’s style. While it’s certainly not overly flashy – electing to present the story in plain old black and white – it’s fun to take in. He’s got a great talent for putting so much emotion in the story simply through facial expressions and the body language of each character rather than hitting you over the head with narrative.

While Johnny Hiro isn’t anyone exceptional, he’s extremely relatable and that’s the biggest takeaway from this book. He spends so much time in his own head worrying about his station in life, if he’s a good partner for Mayumi or if he’s achieving his true potential. Through Johnny, Chao warns against this, that you need to slow down and appreciate what you have, to live in the now (sorry for the cliches) or you’ll grow to regret it. Despite the fact that there’s a giant monkey running around New York City, that Mayor Bloomberg is a featured character AND that there’s a flashback involving the Yakuza, none of these things seem out of place in Chao’s world. The characters are so well written and fully realized that you’re willing to follow them anywhere the story takes you.