Thursday, October 18, 2012
Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Release Date: June 14, 2012
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
When sixteen-year-old Violet agrees to spend the summer with her father, an up-and-coming artist in Seattle, she has no idea what she's walking into. Her father's newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger--including Violet's and her father's.
Violet's search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet's not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery--before it's too late.(courtesy of Goodreads)
If you love manga and enjoy fun, twisting mysteries, Tokyo Heist is the book for you. If you prefer realistic plots with complex, believable characters, Tokyo Heist is probably not the book for you. Tokyo Heist is a flawed novel, but has enough going for it that I enjoyed flipping through it.
Let's start with the good. The main character Violet is obsessed with manga, anime, and Japanese culture. She dreams of getting her own manga published. As a fellow lover of manga and Japan, I loved seeing references to my favorite manga series and to the unique style and culture of manga. It was even better when Violet traveled to Japan. I got to read about so many parts of Japanese culture and food that I love. The mystery is fairly standard. I didn't guess the bad person but I almost never do. Still the culprit wasn't that shocking. Regardless, there are plenty of twists and turns as the stolen art takes us to two different continents - everywhere from art galleries to bathhouses.
Now onto the not so good. Starting with Violet. She is supposed to be 16 years old but she felt much younger. She showed a level of immaturity that would make many a 12 year old blush. For example she railed at her jerk boss for actually making her work during her shifts and then quit without a thought as to whether some notice might be considerate. Many 16 year olds would be upset by a father's new girlfriend, but her reaction struck me as especially childish. What I noticed most of all about Violet was how she lived in the manga world. Like Don Quixote, she lost the ability to distinguish reality from fiction. This prompted her to do many stupid, dangerous things on her quest for stolen art simply because she thought that's how her favorite character would act.
Violet's crazy stunts is a major reason why I had trouble taking the mystery seriously. In general, the plot was just too standard. There are too many coincidences. Too little depth. Violet is rewarded for her actions instead of brought back to the real world. Add to that a love interest element that was seemingly just inserted to fit the stereotypical "It's YA so there must be romance" concept, and there were too many eye rolling incidents for me.
Tokyo Heist is great for its manga and Japanese cultural references. As a story, not so much. Actually, I wish the author had written Violet as 11 or 12. The story would have worked very well as an MG story.