Books & Literature

Book Review: Tokyo Ever After, by Emiko Jean

YA: Izumi Tanaka has lived an uneventful 17 years in her small, mostly white, northern California town, keenly aware of all the ways in which her family is different from most of her classmates’. But then Izumi discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan …

Perfect for those who crave a good romance and a good fairytale.

Emiko Jean’s charming Tokyo Ever After has been described as The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians. And in this case, the tiara fits.

Izumi Tanaka was raised in sunny California by single mum, Hanako. Although she’s content with her hilarious group of friends, the AGG (Asian Girl Gang), and her terrier-mix Tamagotchi, there are two thorns in her side: the feeling that she doesn’t quite belong at her mostly white school, and the fact that her father’s identity is a total mystery. But when she discovers her mother’s old love letter from someone named Makoto, both insecurities rise to the surface. Not only is Makoto her father, but he’s also the Crown Prince and heir to the Imperial Throne of Japan.  

As the title suggests, the bulk of the story takes place in Tokyo, where Izumi travels to get to know her royal heritage and learn how to be the perfect princess. The feel-good plot echoes other rags to royalty storylines but still feels fresh and unexpected, due to a couple of surprising twists and the context of Izumi struggling with her identity at home. Throughout the story, Izumi strives to belong and stop feeling like an other, which makes this a great exploration of identity for teenagers of migrants or minority groups.

One of the book’s strongest elements is its cast of admirable female characters, including the Harvard-educated biology professor Hanako, the fierce security guard Reina, and, of course, Izumi herself. Izumi is a relatable protagonist who goes through a clear and inspiring arc; she rises to the challenges presented to her and learns how to be comfortable with who she is … while still needing a whole day in bed to hide from the world, upon occasion. Her insecurities and struggles help to tear down the traditional stereotype of what a princess looks like, making the coveted title feel more accessible and relatable to a wider range of young readers. Izumi’s kindness is another trait that makes her so likeable, clear in the way she treats those characters throughout the novel who haven’t been so kind to her.

The first part of the story focuses on Izumi’s identity and the process of adjusting to royal life, but the second concentrates on the romance factor. In the end, Tokyo Ever After becomes more of a love story than originally expected—the type of nostalgic love story, in fact, that lets you fly away from the world and escape into fantasy. Love interest Akio is brooding and handsome, says all the right things, and will probably ruin your standards when it comes to love, but there are no complaints here. 

The author’s vivid scenic detail is so well done that it makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the Japanese palace with Izumi. The creative and colourful descriptions fit perfectly into a fairytale—even one where the princess frequently runs her decisions past the wise eyes of the group chat she shares with her friends. 

Tokyo Ever After is a fun and quick read with a strong YA voice that feels modern and would be very appealing to teenagers. It’s especially recommended to those who crave a good romance and a good fairytale.  

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 25 May 2021
RRP: $18.99

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