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Lost In Translation

Posh reviews Dianna Renn's Tokyo Heist, a mystery not nearly as tantalizing as Pocky Sticks.

Lost In Translation

BOOK REPORT for Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Cover Story: Slick
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: I Think I'm Turning Japanese
Bonus Factors: Mystery, Tokyo
Relationship Status: Comic Store Pals

Cover Story: Slick

How hard was it to make this cover look like it belongs in the adult section? Cool stock photo of Tokyo, bold typeface over yellow crime scene tape... NOT HARD AT ALL. And yet, I'm celebrating this cover like it's the second coming of... what's the Jesus equivalent of YA book covers? The Apothecary? Please Ignore Vera Dietz? Anyway, my point is, this artwork is a MASTERPIECE compared to other YA covers, and that, my friends, is sad.

The Deal:

Violet Rossi is obsessed with Japanese culture, particularly manga. She loves to read it, draw it and talk about it, which doesn't exactly make her Miss Popular Pants. When Violet's not hanging out with one of her two friends, she escapes into the world of Kimono Girl, the manga she created about a girl who is brave and daring, a girl Violet dreams she could be. But when she moves in with her artist dad for the summer, Violet suddenly finds herself entangled in a mysterious web of art theft, suicide and the Japanese mafia, and it could be just the opportunity she needs to transform into the heroine of her own life.

BFF Charm: Meh

Man, Violet, I don't know. I mean, you're a good kid, and it's not your fault that you have such a worthless father figure. In many ways, you're doing the best you can. And I totally understand why you're so fascinated by Japanese culture. I love cray cray Tokyo fashion and weirdly flavored Kit Kats too. But there's a fine line between appreciating a culture and annoying everyone (ok, me) by peppering your speech with Japanese and constantly referring to all of the life lessons that Vampire Sleuths manga taught you. It's like, have you ever seen the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous? Well, there's a character in the film who is obsessed with being deaf. But she's not deaf (at least, not until an unfortunate light mishap at the end). So it just makes her seem kind of weird and infantile. Do you get what I'm saying? (I'm saying: you're kind of weird and infantile.) Also, drawing manga isn't always the best way to deal with your feelings. Sometimes you should try, oh, I dunno, TALKING ABOUT THEM WITH SOMEONE. And sorry, that someone won't be me.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

One of Violet's two friends is a boy named Edge, who wears suspenders and bow ties and likes to use vintage slang. But instead of finding this pretentious or annoying, Violet thinks it's adorable. OF COURSE SHE DOES. There's implied chemistry between them, but I didn't really feel it, plus Edge doesn't actually appear much in the book. Which is ok with me, because if he said "Hells bells!" one more time, I would have to smack him.

Talky Talk: I Think I'm Turning Japanese

Diana Renn writes in a basic, straight up style that reminds me less of YA and more of middle grade. The story is plot driven, so the characters don't get much development or layers. The main turn-off for me was the overabundance of italicized Japanese words and manga references. Some chapters read more like a textbook from a Japanese language class, and while I'm all about the inclusion of different cultures in YA, I feel that diversity should enhance a story rather than flatten it. Honestly, I think I might have enjoyed the book much more if Renn had included Violet's manga instead of simply describing it. Her illustrations would have accelerated the action and provided the novel with some much needed spice.

Bonus Factor: Mystery

What starts with the disappearance of a trio of Van Gogh sketches develops into a full scale web of intrigue featuring a Japanese mob boss, a missing painting, blackmail and a decades-old suicide that was probably a murder. I wish it had been as juicy and thrilling as that sounds, but hey, mysteries are scarce in YA, so I'll take what I can get.

Bonus Factor: Tokyo 

Violet lucks out and gets to accompany her father to Tokyo, which was definitely my favorite section of the book. Weirdly, she doesn't seem to appreciate it as much as a Japanese swimfan should. Like, when she's supposed to be experiencing a shopping montage (!), she decides to just sit in the dressing room so she can give her friend Reika an update on the mystery. Woman! Who cares about some missing Van Gogh drawings when you could be buying some sweet Harajuku fashion?!

Casting Call:

Xenia Goodwin as Violet

Xenia excels at playing the sweet but annoyingly naive Tara on Dance Academy, so she's an appropriate choice for Violet.

Relationship Status: Comic Store Pals

This book is like that person I always run into at the comic shop when I'm buying the latest Buffy. It's nice, and it knows a TON about manga, so I appreciate its advice on what to read next. But that's basically all we talk about, and after five minutes, I've heard way more than I want to know about Fruits Basket. It's a nice book, just kind of awkward, and I'm sure that other people with more similiar interests would enjoy it. But let's just say I won't be inviting it out for sushi any time soon.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from Penguin Young Readers Group. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Tokyo Heist will be available on June 14.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).