Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Release Date:
June 14, 2012
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Source: Library


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.

Rating: 2 / 5


  1. Ah, too bad it didn't work for you! I wanted to read this one at some point but never really made it.. Oh and I hate to premature Teens! I know Teens are Teens, but I'm used to the protagonists in YA always seem much older and when they act too childish I'm putt off and often and easily become frustrated!

  2. Eep, that is too bad, because I really liked the sound of this one. It sounds like the MC would really bug me. I don't mind MC's who make mistakes and do silly things, but when it's so over the top it can definitely be grating.

  3. I had been curious and interested in this one when I first heard about it, but when reviews started coming out, they all seemed to be negative. Which is too bad because I loved the inclusion of Japanese culture, too. You're probably right - it probably would work better as MG.

  4. Sorry to hear this book didn't impress you. I was actually looking forward to reading this book since I LOVE japanese culture and a good old mystery but I might push this book back for a while. Anyway nice and honest review!

  5. Just reading about the main character made me laugh. It reminded me of some of my friends, and sometimes me.

  6. oh wow that must really suck, with a book that has so much references to things you love and I personally love such as Manga, anime, and the japanese culture, but with no proper story or likable character, then the novel loses its value right?

    great review and thanks for the descriptive analysis of the novel, I think it helped me on deciding whether to pick it up or not

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  7. Oh darn, I was excite for this book until you mentioned it didn't have much depth and the protagonist was immature. I think I'm going to take a pass on this one.

  8. "She is supposed to be 16 years old but she felt much younger."

    I literally just finished last night a book with this same type of character Alison, and it was a challenging read for me. I know I'm obviously not the target audience for YA at 30 years old, but I felt like I was 60 when I was reading because I couldn't handle her attitude. Clearly this will not be the book for me either! Thanks for the thorough and extremely helpful review:)

  9. I totally agree with Violet feeling younger and the fact that it would have been better off as a MG book! I mean, I didn't HATE this book but I didn't really love it either. It's a cute enough mystery.

  10. I was curious what you were going to say about this book since you do actively read manga and stiff. I agree with everything you've said here, I think Forever YA or someone said this would have made a better MG and I agree with that.

  11. Oh, sadness! Such great promise. I can see how it would work better as a MG than a YA. Too much attitude just kills me (get off my lawn! *shakes cane at annoying kids*).

  12. I have not heard of this book but by the sounds of your review, I don't think it would be a good match for me. Thanks for being honest.


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