*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Tokyo Dreaming
Author: Emiko Jean
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: May 2022
In this sequel to Tokyo Ever After, Izumi’s life is a Tokyo dream come true. Only…Her parents’ engagement hits a brick wall. The Imperial Household Council refuses to approve the marriage citing concerns about Izumi and her mother’s lack of pedigree. And on top of it all, her bodyguard turned boyfriend makes a shocking decision about their relationship. At the threat of everything falling apart, Izumi vows to do whatever it takes to help win over the council. Which means upping her newly acquired princess game. But at what cost? Izumi will do anything to help her parents achieve their happily ever after, but what if playing the perfect princess means sacrificing her own? Will she find a way to forge her own path and follow her heart?
I’m ECSTATIC to have the chance to read the follow up novel to Tokyo Ever After. Jean’s first novel was one of my absolute faves of 2021. I read it in an afternoon which, being a mom with an infant, is an incredibly tough this to do. Naturally, when I first saw book two pop into my inbox, I knew I had to read it too. In this sequel, our beloved princess Izumi has settled into her life in the Japanese Imperial palace. Though she’s not totally free of committing social faux pas, she’s really getting the hang of the whole princess thing. When her parents decide to take the leap to finally get married, she knows she has to do everything in her power to support them.
All the fluff from book one returns in book two for a joyful and happy read. Some of the characters, twins Noriko and Akiko for instance, really turn a corner in this second book and their softer sides emerge. We see them growing, maturing, and opening themselves up to a bit of vulnerability—a big leap for them. I loved seeing this side of them develop as Izumi settles into her new life. They aren’t totally done tormenting her, but they find some common ground.
It’s also exciting to begin to see what Izumi plans with her own life. There’s a lot in this book that reminds you that she’s still quite young, but she’s trying to do the right thing in standing by her parents, even at the cost of herself. But she’s still learning lessons the hard way by not being totally true to herself and losing herself in the expectations of others—understandably easy to do in a world where public image is the root of how the Imperial family is perceived as a whole. Izumi’s character arc is a reminder of what a loveable and endearing character she truly is. Jean has written this character to be so lively and tangible. It’s easy to fall into her story.
Now, I will say, this book didn’t live up to the same standard as the first in the series. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, but it’s more like a 3.5. First, pacing is weird in this one. The parts with Akio (let’s be honest, the parts we really want to read) are incredibly rushed and unsatisfactory. They feel hollow and sparse. There’s not enough juice to them and the pale in comparison to the rest of the story. Akio’s character, so robust in book one, falls completely flat. There’s nothing to him this time around and it’s a huge let down. The romance that burns so bright in book one is boring, lifeless, and disappointing.
The same goes for a long anticipated visit from one of Izumi’s best friends, Noora. I think Izumi spends more time anticipating the visit than actually visiting. It seemed as though the purpose of the visit was to facilitate a fight that raises some important ethical questions about wealth, status, excess, etc., however it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s disruptive, confusing, and a bit useless to the overall story.
This book had a lot more ups and downs in terms of the reader’s experience, however, STILL a great read. I can’t encourage YA fans enough to check out this series. Jean is still a talented writer with a friendly, fun, and engaging voice. I may not be so lucky, but I’m going to hold out hope for another book in this series. I just can’t get enough!