Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tokyo Dare by Anne Van (Young Adult, 8/10)

Edited to add I read this as Tokyo Dare, with Dare meaning who in Japanese, rather than the English makes more sense now!)
 July 2013, Books We Love,  226 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Themes: Japanese food, pleasant and awkward sides to Japanese culture, language barrier difficulties, plenty of misunderstandings, being mistreated by host family, having a laugh with friends, darker side of Japan, being less selfish, strong determination, best friends being awesome, enjoying doing things differently, live fish, Hello Kitty aversion, getting in trouble at school, making the wrong choice of friends,

Content: some humour, moderate amount of mature content, strong teen romance, occasional offensive language, innuendo

Summary from Books We Love 
Sixteen-year-old artist, Erin Van Horn, doesn't know an Unagi Roll from a Kaiser Roll. But on a dare from her best friend, Tori Mukigawa, she wins a coveted spot as an exchange student at a prestigious Tokyo high school. Once in the Land of the Rising Sun, Erin struggles to learn the culture and deal with a host family from hell. Papasan, the father, stops speaking to her after she mistakenly "murders" his favorite bonsai tree. The mother, Mamasan, believes Erin’s evil because she's left-handed and their son is an Elvis impersonator who is convinced Erin's the spitting image of Priscilla if only she'd dye her blonde hair black, and become his child bride. 

But Erin has a bigger problem than her crazy host family when she faces the ultimate dare from Tori—a to-do list she slipped into her backpack. Racked with guilt for winning the spot that should have gone to her best friend, Erin is determined to complete the list. Simple right? All she has to do is find a rock star boyfriend, (sure, there's one on every street corner), apprentice under a famous Japanese artist, (no problem, they'll be listed in the Tokyo Yellow Pages) and visit Tori's long lost relatives to find out what's hidden in the family closet. So what if the only words she knows in Japanese are, "Excuse me eat pretty idiot.”  
How hard can it be?

Nayuleska's thoughts
I was a little surprised at the mature content, but it did enable a certain side of Japan to be revealed which otherwise wouldn't have been mentioned a lot. Erin is rather naieve in thinking how her trip will go - she goes on a revenge mission which at times is funny. It takes her a long time to understand and appreciate Japanese culture, although some issues she deals with are atypical to her host family. Her teen romance was predictable and sad to watch. Her US best friend Tori is a scream! I loved her during the later half of the book - she helps Erin turn her life around. Erin's other Japanese friends help her more than she realises until the end the drama starts slotting into place. It's certainly a trip Erin won't forget!

Find out more on Anne's website

Suggested read
For a great read about a girl who visits family in India check out Jasmine Skies by Sita Brahmachari

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