Review: Swimming to Tokyo by Brenda St. John Brown

SwimmingToTokyoPublished by: Spencer Hill
ISBN: 1939392349
ISBN 13: 9781939392343
Published: December 2014
Pages: 315
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Zosia has had her world fall apart around her more than once. First it was her mother’s death – cancer – and now it’s her father’s work transfer – they’re off to Tokyo (well, Yokohama to be exact.) She’s 19 and high school is over, soon she’ll be off to university. It’s a time of change.

To make matters interesting there’s the hot guy, Finn, who the whole school was interested in back in their high school days. Zosia sees him around once or twice but puts thoughts of him behind her now that she’s off to Tokyo for the summer – until he turns up in Tokyo, too. It’s been three years since her mother passed and her father has started seeing another woman, someone from work. It turns out this ‘someone’ is Finn’s mother. So he’s come to Tokyo for the summer also.

There’s more than there initially seemed to this hot guy; he’s been in juvie, he has father issues, he has trust issues, and probably a dozen other bits of luggage. Even his mother warns Zosia off him and her father agrees; he doesn’t want to see Zosia hurt. Good luck; most people would agree just how impossible it is to not fall into a relationship when everything seems to draw you into one.

This book would fall in the New Adult genre, which means drama and a turning point in life. Will Zosia and Finn still be the people they were at the end of this particular summer?

The characters within this are well developed and interesting, however neither didn’t manage to grab me entirely – I didn’t overly care for their wellbeing (as awful as that sounds!) For plot purposes they seemed willing to jump in without really thinking or talking things through, even though it was quite obvious they were hurt from things in their past, and would probably hurt each other along the way also. They’re great characters, don’t get me wrong – I just personally didn’t find them likeable. I did love to see Zosia’s heritage play such a part in her story though – diversity!

I also loved their dialogue – it felt real, and I loved their snark and sarcasm as they try to protect themselves (in a prickly way!) from what they’re falling into.

The plot jumps a little, and it was used well. Many novels these days account for each damn day, whereas this book skips the actual move itself from the US to Japan, and it managed to show the passing of time well.

The Tokyo aspects of this novel were fairly decent. Having been there many times before I would have liked to see the actual feel of the place shown more. We get a few descriptions of how humid and busy it is, their attempts at trying the food, a few Japanese words thrown in and such, but it didn’t transport me to the place as well as, say, ‘Out by Natsuo Kirino’ did.

Overall this is a decent novel. It’s well written, it’s steady and reliable, I think I was expecting to love this much more than I resulted in (probably because my expectations were so high! I was so desperate for another excellent novel that captures Tokyo), and I was hoping for a book that has that unexplainable zing to it. I need to put that aside, because overall, this is a great novel.

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