MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE by RACHEL COHN (2019)
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Welcome to 2019, everyone! If you’re anything like me, you’re more than glad that 2018 is over and have welcomed 2019 with open arms. With the new year comes new book reviews, and this week’s review is for My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn. If you’re not a YA devotee like me, you may not know that Rachel Cohn has been around and writing for years. I remember reading her book, Gingerbread, when I was in seventh grade. For context, that was in 2004. It’s 2019 now and Cohn is still hard at work in the world of YA. My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is her latest work, and I liked it more than I thought I would.
Tokyo Dream Life follows sixteen-year-old Elle Zoellner, a snarky foster kid who loves swimming and Harry Potter, as she discovers that her long lost father is actually a mega-rich CEO from Japan. What ensues is a frankly ridiculous story chock-full of Japanese pop culture references and a troupe of mean girls worthy of a Disney Channel movie. This description may make it seem like I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. I didn’t love it and I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it to people, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. This book is like what would happen if Cinderella and a Japanese anime were smashed together. Nothing is really believable, all the characters are kind of annoying, and the stakes are nonexistent, but it’s a fun ride nonetheless.
Once Elle gets to Tokyo, readers are introduced to Tak-Luxxe, the luxury hotel her father owns. Tak-Luxxe is full of every amenity imaginable, from five-star restaurants to spas worthy of celebrities. Elle doesn’t quite know what to make of her new life, especially when she enters ICS-Tokyo, a private school for international students catering only to elite clientele. It is there Elle makes friends, enemies, and even finds a boyfriend.
Now that our description is out of the way, let’s get to the point of this review: You shouldn’t read this book for the characters (they’re bland) or the plot (it’s overdone), but for the lovingly crafted Tokyo setting. It’s clear that Rachel Cohn adores Tokyo by the way she describes the city itself and all the various attractions it offers. She takes the time to describe Tokyo right down it the smallest detail and goes out of her way to say how great it is. I don’t blame her. Tokyo seems great and I’d love to go there one day. Until I can, however, I can just reread this book and get almost the same experience.
Tokyo Dream Life has every standard trope you’ve read about in a Cinderella-esque book before. Rags to riches, charming prince, a wicked grandmother, a family that doesn’t try to understand Elle or her point of view. It was all fine, and pretty tame, but other than that, I didn’t care. I did like the smatterings of Japanese phrases we’d get from time to time, however, and the explanations of Japanese culture. Everything else was a bit underwhelming. Did I care? Nope. I still enjoyed this book for the quick read it was. You can check out a copy of My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life at the Argenta Library today!