Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

Found via: Galley Cat

Here's one of those rare moments where I step outside of my comfort zone and read something "age appropriate" - a book for grown ups!

But don't get too excited - I bet this would have a lot of appeal for older high school students as well, especially those who love manga and Japanese culture.

Lisa wins the chance of a life time after entering a manga contest at San Francisco's Comic Convention (does anyone actually call it that? I'm pretty sure it's just Comic Con these days): she's going to be an intern for a year in Tokyo with a manga publisher. At first Lisa is hesitant - she hates to travel and has a comfortable life in upstate New York with an overachieving boyfriend and the friends she's had since high school. But they all gang up on her (in a mostly loving way) and convince her to make the journey to Japan.

Lisa is half-Japanese, but has rarely ventured outside of her small town in New York, and finds herself more than a bit lost in Japan's culture. Intellectually she knows it's a very polite culture where individualism is discouraged in some ways, but it's a whole different ball game actually living there! She has to deal with a crazy host family, a demanding boss, and an internship that is nothing like what she thought it was going to be.

Sometimes Lisa's lack of a backbone and the other characters' contributions to this got on my nerves - I really wanted to yell at her sometimes that she wasn't being the jerk, her boyfriend was (oh man I couldn't stand that guy). But her time in Japan made for some fascinating reading - I bet teen readers would love Lisa's host family, which consists of two overburdened parents, a twenty-something woman who parties all night and sleeps all day, and a 12 year old boy who has everyone else so under his thumb that he does nothing but play video games. Literally - he doesn't even go to school just because he doesn't want to!

I also really enjoyed that, unlike a lot of other "chick lit" that I've read, finding "the one" wasn't the point of the book. Yes there is the aforementioned jerk boyfriend, but since he's literally on the other side of the world Lisa finds lots of other things to occupy her time. It ends up being a great story about a young woman taking risks and finding out who she is and what makes her happiest.

2 comments:

MissAttitude said...

Another good review. I'm trying to slowly ease into adult fiction and it's good to hear that while this one is adult fiction, it's good for teen readers too. The premise of the novel is interesting and I love the title.

I'm pretty sure it is just Comic Con =)

Angela Craft said...

Have you heard about the "new adult" category St. Martin's (and possibly other publishers) are now trying out? It's supposed to be aimed at 18-26 year olds, with characters just out of high school or college. here's an article about it. That might be a way to get me to read some books featuring characters my age...provided they're not all chick lit books.

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