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Swimming to Tokyo Kindle Edition
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And. . . I sadly did not get swept away. Swimming to Tokyo was an enjoyable enough read, but I found myself having to look up the book on Goodreads just to remember the characters’ names when I sat down to write this review–one day after reading.
The gist of the story is fairly simple. Zoe’s father gets a job in Tokyo, and the she spends the summer before leaving for college with her father in Tokyo. While there, she realizes that a boy she knew back home and had a crush on in high school is also there with his mom, who works for the same bank as Zoe’s dad. Because he’s a lead in a NA, he has a bit of a tortured past. They begin a friendship that turns into something more.
I wasn’t expecting a super original tale from Swimming to Tokyo, and I have no problems with the basic premise of the book. However, I was expecting some more. . . spark. sizzle. pizazz. And not just in the romance department(though that would have been nice too). Everything in Swimming to Tokyo just felt so. . . by-the-book. Not just the plot, but also the writing and the characters. I like my characters to have layers, and while Zoe and Finn weren’t one dimensional, they did lack a certain depth I would have liked to see.
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment for me in Swimming to Tokyo was the romance, which is a bit of a problem when a book is centered around the romantic entanglements of the main characters. I didn’t hate the romance, but I didn’t ever really feel the chemistry between Zoe and Finn. In fact, I liked their scenes together better before their families left for Tokyo–those few scenes were endearing but somehow when the setting shifted, the romance felt more connected-by-the-numbers rather than because of any real spark.
Despite my issues above, I actually did enjoy Swimming to Tokyo. While Finn definitely has a troubled past and there was angst, it was less of a drama-filled angst-filled than I expected based on my (admittedly limited) experience with NA. I loved how the setting of Tokyo was actually utilized, and the scenes with Finn and Zoe exploring the city were my favorite part of the book. And, though I may not have been gung-ho over the romance, I have to admit it made me smile a few times.
To everyone else, it seems like Finn has his life together. He's made the Dean's list at MIT and he's absolutely gorgeous. When he starts a conversation with Zosia one day, it almost seems too good to be true. And seeing him again seems even more improbable once her dad tells her that they will be leaving for the summer. To go to Tokyo. Not only is this a huge change in itself, but it also means renting out the house that holds all Zosia's memories of her mom. What's the only thing that could make this somewhat better? The fact that Finn is there in Tokyo with her.
What I Loved!
1) The tension between Finn and Zosia - I love romance. And I love the physical side of the romance too. But what I love the most is when an author convincingly builds up the tension and chemistry between two characters. They don't just meet and immediately fall in love, there's a build-up where you can feel that butterflies in your stomach feeling again through them. And this book had that down pat!
2) The different cultures. Zosia's mother was Polish and we see a lot of her grandmother Babci too. The language and culture of not only that Polish element but also the experiences of living in Japan was wonderful. Zosia does a lot of sight seeing in Tokyo and it was fun to see her experience of living in Japan and sharing that with Finn.
3) The plot. You guys, this story! Sometimes I feel like characters are thrown through as many challenges as possible to make the story more interesting, but this book flowed really organically. Although both Finn and Zosia have some extraordinary challenges facing them, they deal with them in a really mature way. Even though they got in fights, it wasn't because they weren't communicating and I was really impressed how the author made them act their own age without making me irritated about teenage drama.
4) The emotional connection. I'm not sure if this is because I have such a personal experience with losing a parent at almost the same age as Zosia, 16, but I was really emotionally invested in this story. I really felt for her, partly because I deal with things in somewhat the same way, I cruise through life without making waves. But I found myself crying a few times during the book because I was so touched by the story.
5) The steamy scenes. Holy hotness, Batman, there were some awesome steamy scenes in this book. And i'll just leave it at that. . .
What I Didn't Like
Nothing! I really enjoyed this book from start to finish and would happily buy this for everyone (above the age of 18) if I could afford it! Seriously, pick this one up, you won't regret it!
I was disappointed that Zoe’s relationship with her dad and his relationship with Eloise was barely explored. When a young woman loses her mother and her father starts dating again, it’s a big deal! Zoe’s character sloughed it off but in real life, there’s no chance any daughter would have done that. There would have been intense conversations or temper tantrums or sabotage or something. The whole dynamic of Zoe’s dad dating Finn’s mom was superficially addressed. Exploring this would have added more depth and emotion to the story.
I wish the author had spent less time on the explicit "non-sex" scenes (that sometimes contained TMI details that were cringy) and more time on Zoe’s continued evolution as a mature and wise woman falling in love. I guess authors are pressured into bowing to the trend to give young women dumbed down fiction. (I went on to read "A Brit on the Side" and it was pathetic (shallow characters with tons of sexual references).)
This book was good but it could have been amazing. Young women deserve better fiction.