Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Review] Tokyo Heist - Diana Renn

Title: Tokyo Heist
Author: Diana Renn
Genre: YA Mystery
Published: 2012
My rating: ★★

Description: Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she's thrilled that her father's new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt. Her father's client, the wealthy Yamada family, is the victim of a high-profile art robbery. Someone has stolen van Gogh sketches from the Yamadas' Seattle mansion and is holding them hostage until the Yamadas can produce the corresponding van Gogh painting. The problem is that nobody knows where this painting is hidden, and until they find it, all of their lives are in danger. 

Joined by her friend Reika, Violet searches for the missing van Gogh in a quest that takes her from the Seattle Art Museum to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery deepens, Violet's not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to find the painting and the criminals--before it's too late. 

I was excited to read this novel because I have a strong interest in Japanese culture. Yet from the first chapter, I realized I was going to be disappointed. The writing style felt more appropriate for a middle-grade novel than a young adult. The first person present tense point of view didn't help. It felt sugarcoated and there were no gritty scenes, which are what I thrive off of.

The novel starts out slow and just dragged on. It's supposed to be a thriller, yet in all 364 pages, I did not once feel at the edge of my seat. The only real danger is near the end and it's incredibly brief. There's no high-speed chases, no kidnappings, no deaths. There's a lot of talking and a lot of snooping. I also felt the plot was fairly predictable. There was no big Egad! moment. As Violet investigates, she jumps too easily to conclusions. And a lot of the clues were painfully obvious.

Violet is a manga artist, her dream being to publish her story Kimono Girl, so I love the manga/anime references as well as the use of Japanese vocabulary. There's a lot of great visuals and, at times, it had me picturing the novel like a manga. However, I don't know much about art and a great deal is spent describing paintings. I can't picture something like that in my head. I have to see it.

I didn't connect with any of the characters, especially the MC. Violet's a geeky "manga-loid" as her enemies call her, which ordinarily I would sympathize with, but she's attention-starved and has a way of pitying herself that gets on my nerves. I do feel slightly bad for her because her dad seems to want nothing to do with her, though I can't really blame him. She also has this annoying habit of comparing Japanese culture to what she's read in manga. As a Japanese language and literature major, I've learned that's a very amateurish way of looking at it. There's obviously a lot more complexity to Japanese culture than what you read in manga.

The one character I might've liked is Edge, her best friend and love interest, since he's fashionable and dresses like he's from the 1940s. But he's only present at the very beginning and very end. One of the main reasons I didn't like the novel is because there wasn't a character I really liked. You can have a wonderfully unique plot (sadly this was not), but you need to have at least one character I like in order to keep me entertained.

Perhaps I just got off on the wrong start. I don't hate the novel, but as I was reading, I just wanted it to end. 


  1. *reads title of book*

    *is reminded of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift*

    *remembers that miserably addictive theme song that will never, ever leave*

    On a more serious note, it's interesting that the perspective wasn't interesting for you. I admit that I'm usually one for third-person, but I'd like to think that those who use first-person tend to use it well...though I guess that's not the case here. I can't help but wonder if it would have helped.

    Then again, if you couldn't get into the characters, I guess there's not much hope. No good characters = no good story. No exceptions. Although this Edge character sounds like he's got some juice to him -- but then again, snazzy clothes will only get a character so far. Unless it's a goofy mascot suit. Then you've got yourself an award-winner.

    In any case, shame the book didn't do it for you. If it's any consolation, here's a gift for you.



  2. lol, I've only seen the first Fast and the Furious and I didn't really care for it. Not sure why. I love cars. I guess I'm not a huge fan of Vin Diesel. I only got about a minute and half into the song, but I can tell it's going to be stuck in my head. Thanks. :|

    I really enjoy first person present tense if it's done right. However, in this case, it just made the writing style seem super simplistic and childish. Overall, though, most of my favorite books tend to be written in the third person. I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or not.

    If there are no good characters, there's really no point in me reading the story. I don't even have to like them. Hating them works just as good. But they have to make me feel -something-.