My summer reading has really kicked into high gear over the past few weeks and it's been such a joy to have so much dedicated time to read. A friend loaned me Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean, and the book jacket compared the story to The Princess Diaries, which was all I needed to hear.
In reality, it felt more like Crazy Rich Asians!
Izumi is a senior in high school, living with her single mother. After finding an unexpected love note in her mother's bedroom, she learns that her biological father is royalty in Japan. After an awkward confrontation with her mom, she reaches out to her dad, and soon after finds herself on a flight to Japan.
On the journey over, Izumi is reflecting on what this will mean and how it might reshape her identity. I loved this passage on page 23, " . . . but some traditions refuse to fade. They seep through the crack and cling to the walls - remove your shoes before entering the house, always bring a gift when visiting someone for the first time, celebrate the New Year by eating Toshikoshi soba and mochi. The promise of that ghost life makes me yearn. I want to understand myself. I want to put my hands in the earth and pull up roots."
When Izumi lands in Japan, she is greeted by her security guard, Akio. Cue the "enemies to lovers" trope!
On page 64, Izumi is describing what she has learned about Akio in their first few days together. "Likes: bossing people around, schedules, Tom Ford suits, earpieces, glowering and more bossing people around. Dislikes: tardiness, joie de vivre approach to life, princesses who pee, watch Downton Abbey, or accept radishes from chefs." As you can imagine, they develop a flirtation.
In addition to Izumi and Akio's budding romance, there are some hilarious supporting characters. First, Izumi's best friend from home, Noora. Their banter reminded me so much of Peik Lin in Crazy Rich Asians.
Izumi meets her cousins in Japan, including a young party boy, Yoshi. He sneaks her out of the palace to explore. She also has twin cousins, Akiko and Noriko, who are less than thrilled with her arrival. There's a scene where Izumi joins them to tend to their silkworms (yes, really). The press has been invited to cover the moment, and a worm begins to crawl up Izumi's arm. She is trying everything she can not to visibly react. As I was reading this, I kept thinking, "I can picture this in the movie!"
As Izumi travels around Japan, she is accompanied by her lady in waiting, Mariko. She serves as a grounding force for Izumi as she tries to process all these new elements of her family history and future life.
The book is formatted in a way where the chapters are punctuated by press articles from The Tokyo Tatler (a local gossip magazine) and text exchanges between Izumi and Noora. It reminded me of a similar set up in Casey McQuiston's new YA book, I Kissed Shara Wheeler.
I loved this book. It was light, fun and I was absolutely picturing it becoming a movie. If you're looking for an easy beach read, this is it!