My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life
by Rachel Cohn
* * * Stars (Pretty good)
Elle Zoellner is gobsmacked when her Japanese father, with whom she has never had any contact, suddenly informs her that he is bringing her to live with him in Tokyo, Japan. Her mother was incarcerated (drugs) not long ago, and Elle has been living in foster homes, so her transition to the wealth and privilege enjoyed by her Japanese family comes as quite a shock. She barely has a chance to catch her breath before she begins school at ICS, where wealthy and famous Japanese and expats send their kids. Although she makes friends quickly, Elle isn’t sure she likes the popular crowd she falls in with. She prefers the company of her carpool friend and a guy from her swim team. Elle feels constrained by some of the cultural customs and iced out by her family – her father is so busy they rarely have time to talk, and her grandmother and aunt don’t seem to like her at all. Just as she’s finding her feet, getting comfortable, and falling in love, her father starts drinking again (he’s an alcoholic) and her aunt suggests she attend a boarding school back in the States. What can Elle do to convince them all to take a chance on her and on themselves?
This will hit the spot for readers who are interested in Japan and Japanese culture, with its detailed descriptions of food, customs, and locations. Elle is a strong, opinionated character and she regularly pushes boundaries with her family. She’s a bit more cautious with her friends in trying not to rock the boat, so it’s refreshing when she finally stands up for herself and tells them what she really thinks. The imperfections of the characters make this a good, realistic read.
Reviewed by YA Librarian