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My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by…

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life

by Rachel Cohn

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454390,969 (3.5)2
On her sixteenth birthday, Elle Zoellner leaves the foster care system to live with the father she never knew in Tokyo, Japan.

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DNF at 18%

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

It's been awhile since I've read something by Rachel Cohn (really love her books with David Levithan), and I was excited to start My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life. Regrettably, this one didn't work for me. I disliked the main character, Elle, which made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the book. Her attitude and personality left a lot to be desired.

Elle's relationship with her mother didn't feel authentic, and the one interaction I read about wasn't believable. It didn't feel like they were having conversation between mother and daughter, but one between two people that happened to know each other. Her mother has kept a lot of secrets, but she did very little to explain herself when given the opportunity. Even their banter felt forced and fake.

Elle has been in foster care for a few months now, and she's experienced some truly terrible living conditions. I felt bad for her at the beginning, and thought she'd be happy (at the very least curious or relieved) when her father asked her to come and live with him, but she was bratty about everything. She complained about the clothes, the way people greeted one another, how they ate their food, and various other customs. I hated how disrespectful she was of the culture and traditions -- even her inner thoughts were obnoxious. I know her circumstances weren't ideal, but ugh. I wish she had at least tried to understand and accept her new surroundings.

Originally posted at Do You Dog-ear? on January 31, 2019. ( )
  doyoudogear | Oct 11, 2019 |
One sentence theme: "Crazy Rich Asians" set in Japan for a younger crowd.

Plot summary: Elle's mom is in trouble. Suddenly, Elle learns about her father and that she is going to Tokyo to live with him! She jets off in style and quickly is introduced to the high life in the high rise. It takes longer to get to know her father, his family and their culture.

Personal response: I saw this book on 'new YA book' display at the Bemidji Public Library. It's not the best book, I've read, but having lived in Japan, I really enjoyed the context. I asked teen friends in Japan to read it but haven't heard back.

Curricular connections: You could recommend this title to geography teachers who are studying life in modern Japan. Students who are interested in Japanese manga and anime may be interested in the descriptions. ( )
  JanePrestebak | Jul 20, 2019 |
Elle's life hasn't been going very well, ever since her mom got addicted to painkillers and subsequently sent to prison. Elle has been in a series of heinous foster homes ever since, until her sixteenth birthday, when she gets the news that her father, whom she has never met, wants her to come live with him in Tokyo. Suddenly, Elle is thrust into the glamorous life of a wealthy expat teen, attending the International Collegiate School, falling in with the popular crowd, and living in her father's penthouse apartment in the luxury hotel and office skyscraper that he owns. The downside? Her father works pretty much all the time, her Japanese grandmother is cold and unfriendly (and racist), and the popular crowd isn't welcoming to some of the other friends Elle has made. As Elle experiences all of the wonders of her new city, she can't help but wonder: how long will this dream life last?

I must admit, I didn't care for this one very much. Elle sure does whine a lot. Plus, there's a lot less plot and a lot more description of Elle doing touristy things, like going to a cat cafe and a robot restaurant. None of the characters have much depth, and Elle literally crushes on the first guy she sees at her new school. None of Elle's actions have consequences, so when she does things like skipping a swim meet to hang out with the popular crowd because she's piqued that her dad won't come to the meet or literally running away from home with her boyfriend, so that her family has to get the police involved to track her down via her credit card, she never gets so much as a telling off, nor does she have that internal moment of realization that maybe she didn't do the right thing. There's no indication that her actions, particularly that last one, aren't a good strategy to get her way. On top of that, I thought that there were some problems with the writing. The perspective is first person, but often in describing the sights of Tokyo, the author used vocabulary that Elle probably wouldn't have. She didn't always sound like a believable teenager to me.

Also . . . look, I'm sure there are some dreadful foster homes out there, and I realize that the narrator needed a terrible situation for Elle to be rescued from. But, having recently watched a colleague go through the arduous process of getting approved to provide foster care, I did wonder how much research the author did on the current state of foster care before writing this book. (She had Elle placed in not one, but three, terrible foster homes, and mentioned that Elle's friend Reggie had also experienced nothing but terrible foster homes, so it wasn't supposed to be an isolated case.)

I'd only recommend this book for Japanophile readers who are fascinated with the culture and want to read something like a Tokyo travel guide with a bit of a plot. I know very little about the culture and nothing about the language, so I can't speak to the accuracy of those parts of the book. For a similar but better read, I'd recommend Seven Days of You by Cecelia Vinesse. ( )
  foggidawn | Apr 19, 2019 |
Multi-racial teenager, Elle, is swept away from her Maryland foster home to live in Tokyo with her wealthy father, who she has never met. Her new life is full of socioeconomic and cultural differences from her old life. There are cliques, teen romance and family drama. Lots of interesting food and Japanese cultural references.
This book can be a standalone. But I hope there will be a follow on, continuing the story of Elle and her friends and family, both in the US and Japan. ( )
  deslivres5 | Mar 2, 2019 |
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