Book Review: Tokyo Ever After

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean


Izumi Tanaka has spent her whole life feeling like she doesn’t quite fit in—not in her small, mostly whyte northern Californian town—and her mom has been quiet about her dad. So when Izumi discovers her father is actually the Crown Prince of Japan, things get, well, complicated. Suddenly Izumi is whisked off to a world of etiquette, rules and paparazzi, and she’s feeling even more like a fish out of water among the family she’s never known. Will she swim? Or will she sink under these new expectations?

I am brave. I am magnificent. I can do anything. (As long as I am gently handled, have ten hours of sleep a night, and a hearty, protein-packed breakfast, of course).

I absolutely adored Izzy. She is such a relatable protagonist, from her procrastinating (sure, she’ll figure out that homework assignment…also, that homework assignment is the one unresolved plot hole—did she do it? I don’t think she did) to her cheerful attitude and her wit to her genuine acceptance of herself, even though she’s bewildered by everything happening around her and struggling to find her place and fit in. She also acknowledges the delightful narcissism of teenagers, which was hilarious and um, so true, Because when you’re a teen, did your parents actually have a life before you, or did the world start after you?

“I should be in the dossier you received.”

“Riiight.” The dossier. Japan Airlines had the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. I’d chosen the historical drama over my own family history. I’ve made my bed and now I have to lie in it. “I haven’t had much time to look at it.”

Also, have I mentioned how funny Izzy’s voice is???

Additionally, I loved her relationships with well, everyone, although I wish her friends from home had more page time than they did (bonus shout-out to a complete mom-moment when she gets in a car with Izumi’s friend). I loved her relationship with her mom. They’ve been a unit, and while her mom has secrets she has never not supported her daughter. They’ve always been close, even though Izzy is beginning to push away and find her own independence (something also mentioned, which I love).

Which is where the relationships with the Imperial Family gets wild, because there is so much reserve and distance there. Mako the Crown Prince was different than I expected, although for someone who just discovered his one-true-love-who-dumped-him nearly twenty years ago was keeping his teenage daughter a secret and that he had a teenager, he was very well written. I delighted in every scene he was in during the final third of the book (looks like someone finally began to find his own independence after a lifetime of performing exactly to expectation).

A lot of the distance was built into the culture, and another bit into the expectations of being royalty, no matter how far from the throne one was. And all of the younger generation were struggling to find their place—as were a lot of the others who had page time—within the royal family and coping with the expectations of being royalty in a world where you were merely a symbol and no longer really useful or necessary. But symbols are people too, and some either caved to the pressure, walled themselves off into a brittle shell, rose to the outward appearance but remained isolated and lonely, or strove to do anything to get away, even if that striving meant destroying another person.

And, of course, Izzy walks into that mass of expectation face first. She has no idea, and she is not let off easy because of it.

Every decadent little indulgence holds a promise of better tomorrows. Like, things are super bad right now, but I really think this bronzer in Golden Goddess is going to turn it all around.

Several relationships that got a lot of page-time where Izzy’s relationships with her staff. There’s a distinct culture clash, as they try to mold her into Japanese royalty and fit her American self into a Japanese box, where she feels constricted by both. I did like how Izzy’s relentless optimism (it does crumble and she does have a hard time, but she manages to pick herself up) kept forcing people to like her, despite their reservations. She was just so nice, without demanding expectation in return or being false or obnoxious about it.

The final relationship—and the big one—is her relationship with her guard, Akio. Akio is also forced into family legacy, as imperial positions can pretty much only be gained through family inheritance, and he feels he must continue his family legacy after his father had to retire to care for his mother. Akio had thought he’d have time to pursue his own dreams before picking up the mantle of guard, and is torn between familial duty and the weight of all of those expectations, and his own heart.

While I preferred when Akio and Izzy were enemies/antagonists, their relationship had that sweet taste of forbidden romance that was also nice (and the balance between age and power dynamics was well done without being creepy). Plus, their chemistry was fantastic. Akio as an asshole guard was delightful and the banter was off the charts.

Anywho, if you’re craving a royal romance that hits that sweet mash-up of Princess Diaries and What A Girl Wants, with a dose of the gossipy richy-rich of Crazy Rich Asians, then this is definitely the book for you.

It was gossipy, it was angsty, it was filled with all of the royalty-drama I could ever want, and it had two romances, not to mention it is a fantastic coming of age of a Japanese-American girl finding herself, at last.

Plus that cover is to die for!

Born a foreigner

I carry two halves with me

Loose skins I pull on

To go places and don’t fit

Like apple pie and mochi

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

Tokyo Ever After releases May 25, 2021 from Flatiron Books

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