It’s hard to believe it was twenty years ago that I first read The Princess Diaries and my love of royalist fiction was born. I first read it after the movie came out and my friends and I became obsessed with the movie. And then I was a bit disappointed that both of my parents were clearly my parents and we were in no way related to royalty and I was not a long lost princess to a small European country. Needless to say, when this book came across my mail pile at the store, I figured it was a good fit for my single YA read for the year!
From the publisher marketing:
The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s Tokyo Ever After, the irresistible story of an ordinary Japanese-American girl who discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan!
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
In a whirlwind, Izumi travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.
Izumi soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairy tale, happily ever after?
I don’t have an American half and a Japanese half. I am a whole person. Nobody gets to tell me if I am Japanese enough or too American.
I don’t read a lot of young adult books anymore, and I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA period. Unless royals are involved. Then I must have it. I don’t know what, exactly, it is that has always driven my royalty obsession – maybe the fact that Prince Harry and I almost share a birthday and I fancied him when I was a kid? I always did think he’d marry an American, but had hoped it’d be me! But I think my husband is better than a prince.
Anyway, back to the book! Izumi, Izzy, is a fun and spunky heroine with a big heart. As a Japanese-American teenager, she has never really felt like she was fully accepted as an American and so she searches out her father and she and her best friend discover that he’s the crown prince of Japan. Izzy, wants nothing more than to find her home, the place that fits, the place where she’s accepted into society. When her father, thrilled to discover she exists, invites her to visit, she jumps at the chance to go to Japan.
In typical YA narrative structure, Izzy goes to Japan, makes a few friends, struggles to fit in, meets a cute boy, is betrayed by someone close to her, discovers her real family is at home, runs away, and then prince charming (her dad), comes back to show her he cares. It’s trope-y, it’s predictable, it’s written in first person, it checks more boxes on my list of dislikes than likes. But it is smart. It’s funny. It’s witty. It’s got a fun set of secondary characters that often steal the show.
I read Tokyo Ever After in one setting in a couple hours on a weekday night, something I haven’t done in who knows how long. Read a book in one sitting on a Sunday? Absolutely. On a Wednesday night? Maybe not since I was in middle school. It pulled me in and kept me hooked – I adore all of the characters and it’s clear how near and dear Izumi is to Emiko’s heart.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.