Title: Tokyo Ever After (review copy)
Author: Emiko Jean
Genre/Themes: Contemporary Young Adult, Japanese American, Cultural Identity
Blurb from Goodreads
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.
Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?
Can you hear my heart sing? Because it is! It really and truly is. Tokyo Ever After was an absolute delight to read. It fulfilled every little princess dream my girlish heart ever had.
From the opening pages to the very end I was enraptured. I was immediately taken in by the wonderfully humorous nature of main character Izumi due to her fabulously witty descriptions of her general life, societal attitudes etc. And then there were her exchanges with her best friends, and her mum.
Honestly it was the most perfect opening to a book. Izumi was just so engaging, so immediately down to earth, and in my opinion it would simply be impossible for any reader not to fall in love with her and to wish for her to have a most fabulous adventure… which she very much did!
I have no idea what it must be like growing up in a country where you are seen as an outsider despite being born there. And this book really brings into sharp focus the sense of othering that is experienced by Asian Americans. Izumi is Japanese-American and this constantly marks her out as somehow different, and very much impacts on her sense of belonging, or lack there of, in her hometown in the USA.
This feeling of not belonging propels her and her friends to do a little snooping to see if Izumi can learn anything about the man who is her father.
And in the absolute best fairytale tradition it turns out he is the Crown Prince of Japan!
So Izumi heads for Japan to get to know him, and to learn all about her culture and identity.
And naturally it’s a bumpy journey!
Izumi has to somehow learn how to be royal, how to be Japanese rather than American… and we further see how even now she is still othered. She is yet again a foreigner or outsider.
But through the course of the novel she uncovers so much about herself and who she truly is… and because this is a modern day fairytale of sorts there is a very sweet love story.
Did anyone say bodyguard trope?
From their first meeting Izumi and Akio had a certain spark to their relationship and banter… and I won’t divulge anymore than that about their relationship other than to say it was everything I wanted and more!
I so very much enjoyed this book.
- I loved leaning about all of the Japanese culture; it was very moving to read about Izumi’s sense of identity and belonging.
- I adored how this book looked at family dynamics and explored issues arising due to familial expectations.
- The cherished female friendships… OH YES PLEASE! Thank you to the author for showing the value and importance of female friendships with how they are sources of unquestioning love and honest advice.
There’s more I could praise but spoilers prevent me from doing so, but I have to say that ending… *chef’s kiss*
This was such a delightful read. Warm hearted, great story, likeable characters… couldn’t really ask for much more than that! Highly recommended to fans of coming of age contemporary-set YA who enjoy their reads to come with an enchanting love story.
*Through my blog I was invited by Claire McLaughlin at Flatiron Books to read an e-copy via NetGalley for honest review*
Publishing 18th May 2021, Flatiron Books