Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“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?”
At the heart of Tokyo Ever After is a yearning to belong. The book has been described as a mixture of The Princess Diaries and Crazy Rich Asians. While I can see the similarities from each of these texts, I believe that Emiko Jean did a great job of separating the narrative from those books. Unlike Mia Thermopolis, Izumi must deal with exclusion due to her ethnicity and race instead of just being the “dorky girl” who gets a makeover. Another difference is that her father is still alive..I wouldn’t say that this book is much like Crazy Rich Asians aside from the fact that the Imperial family is rich and Asian.
This book is sweet, thoughtful, and fun! I love that Izumi has other Asian friends from different backgrounds and a mother who is passionate about science. Oftentimes, in books with BIPOC main characters in predominantly white towns, they are loners. It’s satisfying to read a story that doesn’t follow that formula because our experiences are not all the same. Izumi’s solid friendships and relationship with her mom make it easier to have fun with the adventure she embarks on in Japan.
Although I don’t support monarchies, I always seem to enjoy fantasy twists like this in my fiction. It’s playful and allows the reader to escape into the glamorous life of a princess or prince without fully diving into the real history and toxic culture around it.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable series to start your Summer, this may be the one to start with!