Book Review: Tokyo Every After by Emiko Jean
Book Review Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean, reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnobel
Craving a call-back to The Princess Diaries but with a Crazy Rich Asians twist and no high school drama?
Tokyo Ever After, by Emiko Jean, is about a Japanese American teen named Izumi. Shortly before her high school graduation, she discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan and gets caught up in a whirlwind of a journey. Suddenly in Tokyo and learning about the country she never had, she’s got a lot to do – to figure out what it means to be a princess in the oldest monarchy in the world, to dodge the gossip-hungry tabloids, to learn an insane number of cultural norms overnight, and to try to not flirt with her bodyguard. She might not be quite “American” enough for California nor quite “Japanese” enough for Tokyo and Kyoto, but she’s determined enough to give this princess thing a shot.
I appreciated the elements Jean included that set the scene – Kyoto, especially, is brought to life in vivid detail with her descriptions, and it’s left me itching to travel there to see the setting for myself. And, while it can be chocked up to personal taste, this book got next-level cute when main characters began to exchange English waka poems; I can’t pretend to be an expert on everything Japanese, but I appreciated the callback to Japan’s historical and cultural practices surrounding poetry. It was reminiscent of The Princess Diaries in a lot of good ways, and it was different enough from other contemporary YA that its plot didn’t feel too predictable.
Did I have any issues with the book? Very few. My gripes with the story are, frankly, more logistical than anything. For someone who states she has mediocre grades, Izumi has an extremely quick turnaround when learning Japanese and its writing system (possible, but not likely). I also couldn’t quite get over how chill everyone in the US seems to be with Izumi traveling to Japan in the first place, regardless of who her father is. It’s not meant to be a book about white people and their reactions, but it seemed strange how all her time in school in small-town California is boiled down to “not fitting in” and getting occasionally bullied with no present action actually showing us that her experience is different.
Overall, though, these are faults that are pretty easy to ignore. It was a lovely YA novel; going in anticipating something moderately fluffy and cute, I’d say it exceeded my expectations. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find Tokyo Ever After at the Charles City Public Library. Call 641-257-6319 or stop in today to reserve our copy.