My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn

“I’m here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!”

In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World’s future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS-the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.

Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her sixteenth birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahari, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hyper-critical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn’t exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of uber-cool international kids who spend money like it’s air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who’s frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family, and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.

Read below for my spoiler free review. I received this book to review from Net Galley, but all opinions remain my own.

So…where to begin. As you can see, I’ve given this book a solid one star. It hurt my soul a little bit to do that, but I can’t in good faith tell you guys that it deserves anything more than that.

This book begins with Elle Zoellner (what kinda name…) finding out that she gets to go live with her long-lost daddy in Japan! And–get this–he is super rich, so her life of poverty turns into one of luxury pretty much over night. I cannot emphasize how cliched this entire plot line is. As Elle delves into the world of her fancy school, ICS, she is taken in by the popular girls, but realizes they are all jerks. Then she falls in love with the bad boy who actually has a gentle soul. Then she starts to fit into the family who had rejected her before. Then everything works out. The end.

Okay, maybe there were some minor spoilers there, but I can guarantee that you’ve read this exact story somewhere before. It is completely unoriginal. What little conflict there is in the plot is resolved literally within a couple paragraphs at the end of the book. There is no climax, no resolution…and yes, there is a reason why they teach these things in school. They are kind of necessary for a decent story.

This review is pretty much over because I have nothing else to say about the book. My writing is choppy after a book-reviewing hiatus, and even more so because I just read 350 pages of Cohn’s third-grader grammar. This book was definitely a low for me, and it just reminded me why I’ve given up on YA contemporary. The writing was stylized by “teenager lingo”, the characters were static, the plot flat. The fact that it took place in Japan was a big draw for me when I requested this book, but even that couldn’t save it. Japan has a beautiful culture that synthesizes Eastern philosophy with unique visual elements and technological advancements, but all we saw here were fancy bidets and sushi.

If you are looking for something quick and entertaining, then this is your read. Don’t expect any sort of depth or development throughout the story.

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