Book Reviews

Book Review: Tokyo Ever After

Title: Tokyo Ever After
Author: Emiko Jean
Genre: Romance, Young Adult Fiction

What It’s About: Izumi Tanaka has lived all of her life with her single mom, Hanako Tanaka, in a Northern California town called Mount Shasta, where her mother is a professor at a University. She grew up as the only Japanese-American in her town alongside her Asian Girl Gang, which consists of Noora as well as two other girls who are part of the close group of friends but not Izumi’s best friends.

One day, while hanging out with Noora in Hanako’s bedroom to test out makeup, they come across a book on flowers in which a poem/letter was written by someone named Makoto “Mak” and it seems to be very romantic, giving Izumi hope that it may be her father. Noora does her research, and comes back with information that Mak is actually the Crown Prince of Japan–a member of the Royal Imperial Family, making Izumi a Princess.

Izumi lashes out at her mother, who ultimately tells Izumi the truth–she had met Makoto in Harvard, when they were both college students–and he really drew her attention; however, she also saw the strains of Imperial life on him, and did not want to put Izumi through that herself. So when she found out that she was pregnant, she decided not to do anything else, choosing to raise Izumi outside of the Imperial walls and constraints. Hanako gives Izumi an email address to a mutual friend of hers, who may keep in touch with Makoto, and Izumi decides to write him an email.

Thirteen days later, after checking her email for the umpteenth time, Izumi gives up as Noora drives the AGG group members home, dropping Izumi last at her home. It is as they’re pulling up that Izumi realizes that she has received missed calls from her mother, but it’s too late– the press swarms Izumi and Noora, taking pictures. Hanako brings Izumi into the home, where they meet with the Ambassador to Japan, who in turn gives Izumi the option of going to Japan for two weeks to meet her father. Izumi–after a little bit of consideration–decides to go meet her father.

The flight to Japan is uneventful, though she does find that there is another man in the business class section of the flight with her–who turns out to be no one other than her bodyguard, Akio. He escorts her through the airport, but she really needs to go to the restroom, and has an argument with him in the airport–so he takes her to a restaurant to let her use the restroom. There, one of the chefs gives her a flower shaped out of a Radish, and lets her use a tower.

They make their way to the imperial palace, and Izumi ultimately meets her father, getting to know him very briefly. Time flies as she begins to learn the in-and-out of court life, becoming friends with her cousin Yoshi–who is a rule breaker. He is the one that sneaks her out to a bar and Karaoke, only for Akio to find her and save her life. At the same time she finds that she is being bullied by her other cousins–twins Noriko and Akiko–which stresses her out. Specifically, the twins put a silkworm on Izumi’s arm, which freaks her out, but more importantly, they cause her to commit a faux pas at the Prime Minister’s wedding. Izumi overhears the two of them talking about her father not mentioning the Prime Minister’s sister, so she decides that she wants to rectify that on behalf of her father, only for the Prime Minister to get mad. Turns out that the Prime Minister and his sister had not been on good terms and her father speaks to her harshly. As Izumi runs out of the wedding in embarrassment, the twins call her ‘gaijin.’

After the faux pas, Izumi heads out to Kyoto at her Father’s recommendation, and spends some time at the estate there, getting to enjoy nature. During her time there, she becomes closer to Akio, and they both share feelings that they had for each other. Then she returns to Tokyo, where she attends her grandfather’s birthday and gets introduced to the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Her grandmother takes to her very quickly, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan invite their whole family to the balcony to celebrate with them. Afterwards, Izumi dances with Akio in the room away from the party, just the two of them.

The news that Izumi and Akio are seeing each other makes the news, and Akio disappears–makes it impossible to contact him. Upset, Izumi packs up her stuff and heads home, especially as her dad is upset over something else with her. She spends a week wallowing at home, before Noora shows up and kicks her butt into gear. There’s a doorbell and when Izumi opens up the door, her father is standing there. They end up talking, and he also deals with the imperial household agency and the ambassador when they show up at the door. They spend the next three days together, with Makoto trying to convince Izumi and Hanako that they should come back to Japan with him.

In the end, Izumi and Hanako choose not to. But as Makoto keeps driving away, they both say that they think they’ve made a mistake, and with Noora, they catch up to the imperial cavalcade. Makoto postpones his flight, and the whole family flies privately back to Japan. In Japan, Hanako decides to hide away from the limelight, while Izumi provides an interview, where she basically sends the message to Akio that she’s still interested in him. She ends up getting a present with a keychain–hand carved with her name on it–based on a story she once told Akio, and so she goes to find him outside of the Imperial gates, then brings him home. It turns out that Akio decided to quit the Imperial guard so that he can focus on becoming a pilot–something that he has wanted to do but was forced to follow in his father’s footsteps. They decide to date each other, going forward. While on a walk around the garden alone, Izumi asks Noriko and Akiko why they shared her stories to the media–both of them claim that they didn’t and Izumi realizes that it is true as they were very protective of their mother who couldn’t handle the limelight. It’s then that she realizes that it’s no one else but Yoshi, so she goes to visit him and ask him why she shared the details of her life with the media.

It turns out that Yoshi shared it so that he could get money to move out of the Imperial Grounds–that was his whole reason–so Izumi asks Yoshi’s bodyguard if she would like to work for Izumi instead, where she would not be harassed by the prince. Reina takes her up on her offer.

Eventually Hanako heads back to the US only to come back a few weeks later with their dog and a few other items that they want to have in Japan.

My Thoughts: It was slow going, and I was worried that I was going to get sucked into another bad version of royalty books. The last one I’ve read and really didn’t like was the American Royals 2, and my worry was that it would be the same. At first the book was very slow to get started, and made it hard to read, but as I pushed through and made it to the 2nd half of the story, it became more interesting. I always was interested about Japan and Japanese culture, so this was a nice eye opener for that and how it works, but at the same time I cannot help but feel like ever since the Crazy Rich Asians, more and more of these books with Rich people have become the norm, and they are getting slightly cliched.

That said, I really enjoyed Izumi’s growth throughout the book, as she decides whether or not she wants to do what is expected of her versus what she wants to really do. I loved how she becomes this unsure person to someone who realizes what really matters to her–her roots, her family and also the budding romance with Akio. She is smart to realize that she can use the media to get a message to him when in other situations she would not be able to do that.

Overall, a good story to read–it’s nothing like the American Royals, and has a different non-crazy/outlandish spin on Crazy Rich Asians.

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