Sweet and Sour

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic, July 2022

A heartfelt middle-grade novel about ex-best friends, betrayals, and revenge that is best served sour.

Revenge is sweet!

For as long as she can remember, Mai Hirano has spent every summer in Mystic, Connecticut visiting family friends. And hanging out with her best-friend-since-birth, Zach Koyama, was always the best part.

Then two summers ago everything changed. Zach humiliated Mai, proving he wasn’t a friend at all. So when Zach’s family moved to Japan, Mai felt relieved. No more summers together. No more heartache.

But this year, the Koyamas have returned and the family vacation is back on. And if Mai has to spend the summer around Zach, the least she can do is wipe away the memory of his betrayal…by coming up with the perfect plan for revenge!

Only Zach isn’t the boy he used to be, and Mai’s memories of their last fateful summer aren’t the whole truth of what happened between them. But how can she forgive Zach for a betrayal she’ll never forget?

Pre-order info coming soon!

Hard Cover
Paperback Cover

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter

by Debbi Michiko Florence Scholastic/2020
  • A 2020 New England Book Award finalist (NEIBA)
  • Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • 2020-21 ProjectLIT Book Club Selection

A sweet story about first crushes, friendship drama, and finding the courage to stand up for yourself.

Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have… together.

But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving into Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.

Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?

Paperback has a sneak peek chapter of Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai!

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“The moment I saw the cover, my heart soared: an Asian American main character who is every bit the All-American girl. This is the book I wish I could take back in time and give to my tween self. I am so thrilled that today’s readers get to have Keiko Carter.”

–Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor author of A Wish in the Dark

“In this deft, empathetic, and humorous narrative, Debbi Michiko Florence has expertly captured the joy and heartbreak of middle school.”

– Andrea Wang, award winning author of Magic Ramen, The Many Meanings of Meilan, and Watercress

“In her middle-grade debut, Florence creates a fun, accessible story, touching on the realities of middle school, such as friendships, fallouts, misunderstandings, first crushes, and fitting in. The highs and lows of the girls’ friendship highlight toxic relationships versus true friendship. Sweet and smart.”

Kirkus Review

“Tween and teen relationships are explored in this charming middle-grade story by Florence.”


Keep It Together, Keiko Carter navigates friendships, crushes, and self-discovery with such heart–my seventh grade self would have adored this book!”

–Mae Respicio, award-winning author of The House That Lou Built and Any Day with You

“I love this book is because it’s the only one I can think of in which middle grade covers toxic friendships. I predict this book will be a humongous comfort to many readers in the throes of adolescence. Highly recommend to readers in grades 5 and up!”

–Kristin Crouch, teacher

More about the book

Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic/2021
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • Amazon Best Books of 2021 Ages 9-12
  • Kirkus starred review

“Heartbreak is for suckers.”

When Jenna Sakai 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 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 her ex-. 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.

This book is full of family drama and first crushes, independent girls, and friendship.

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“Florence offers a tightly written narrative that is as fearless as it is balanced, diving into complicated feelings of distrust and isolation while still offering glimmers of friendship and hope. Jenna’s honest voice shines with clarity, portraying a flawed but relatable protagonist whom readers will root for.

This entertaining read is as complex as it is delightful.”

starred review, Kirkus

“This sweet, mid-grade story is perfect for budding romance fans. Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is a worthy inheritor of the teen romance tradition, and it comes right on time.”

– NPR, Juanita Giles

“A beautiful story about healing from heartbreak, and discovering the strength that comes from opening your heart to others. Jenna is a gem!”

– Jo Knowles, award-winning author of Where The Heart Is and See You At Harry’s

“A sweet, funny novel with lots of Broadway! I loved it!”

– Kaela, age 12

“In this poignant and resonant book, tweens everywhere will identify with Jenna’s heartache, loss, and emotional barriers. Debbi Michiko Florence shows them that sometimes, the best way to move forward is to let someone in.”

– Andrea Wang, award-winning author of Watercress and The Many Meanings of Meilan

More About the Book