I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Tokyo Ever After, Izumi has grown up without knowing who her father is. Then one day, by sheer chance, she finds a clue to his identity, and after she and a friend do some digging, they discover his name. Moreover, he’s the Crown Prince of Japan. Soon Izumi finds herself on her way not only to meet her father for the first time but to learn about her heritage and what life as a royal means for her. She just hopes she’s cut out for this life.
This book was really charming and fun! I liked Izumi a lot; she’s a well rounded and sympathetic character. Watching her struggle to fit in among her new Japanese family members was moving and made you root for her. Her growth was nice to witness overall.
I also liked most of the side characters, though there were quite a few of them. The best ones were Izumi’s dad, Akio, and Izumi’s friends back home in America. I liked Yoshi too, though I think what happened at the end involving him could have been done a little better—it felt so out of the blue. Maybe I’m just oblivious, though.
The romance Izumi had was nice, and I was invested in their relationship, even if it was rather predictable. Still, her love interest is a kind boy, and they’re pretty good at communication, which is really refreshing especially in young adult books. However, the best part of this book for me was the theme of exploring your heritage, particularly the way that many Japanese Americans feel very little solid connection to Japan. Trying to navigate life in a country you are ostensibly linked to, without actually knowing the culture, is well presented here. It’s a complex concept, but Jean does a fantastic job conveying the nuances of Japanese American identities.
In the end, I had a great time reading Tokyo Ever After. There is a good dose of royal intrigue, a cute romance, and a powerful message about finding your identity when you might feel divided between two worlds. There are obvious similarities to The Princess Diaries, as well as Crazy Rich Asians, but with the idea of Japanese American diaspora at the heart, this book brings something new to the table. (Also, it wins so many points for that little tangent about the whitewashing in Dr. Strange!)
Overall rating: 8.7/10
Tokyo Ever After will be published on May 25th, 2021!