Swimming to Tokyo
by Brenda St. John Brown
Original Publication Date: July 28, 2014
Length: 235 pages
Obtained Via: Bought
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
View at the Traffic light:
The rules for swimming are simple:
Rule #1: There is no lifeguard on duty.
Since her mom died three years ago, nineteen-year-old Zosia Easton’s been treading water. Living at home. Community college. Same old Saturday nights. So when her father breaks the news he’s taken a job transfer—and by the way, it means renting out the house that’s been her refuge—a summer in Tokyo feels like it just might be a chance to start swimming again.
Rule #2: Beware of unexpected currents.
Finn O’Leary has spent God knows how many years trying to drown out his past. Juvenile detention. Bad decisions. Worse choices. He’s managed to turn it around – MIT, Dean’s List, a sexier-than-thou body with a smile to match – at least on the surface. When his mom asks him to spend the summer with her, Tokyo seems as good a place as any to float through the summer.
Rule #3: Swim at your own risk.
New Adult, as a category, continues to overwhelm me. The vast focus of new adult books show experiences so unlike my own being a “new” adult that it’s hard for me to overlook the exaggeration of what I’ve found to be real life. I want to like new adult so badly–but I also want to see those new adults struggle with bills, have trouble finding jobs, and wondering what they’re going to do after college while still getting caught up in the moment. However, I wanted to give this category of books more of a chance than I have so far. I’ve seen only positive reviews for Swimming to Tokyo, and the setting intrigued me enough that I decided this would be my plunge into NA.
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.
While Swimming to Tokyo was not a home run for my experiment with NA, it was a good read for what it was. I wish I had believed in the romance more, as I think that would had sold me on this one. Even so, I’m glad I gave Swimming to Tokyo a chance. 3/5 cupcakes.