Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review : Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

  • Release Date: June 14th 2012
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile
  • Genre: Contemporary/Mystery
  • Pages: 384
Synopsis: 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.                                                                                                                                                                                   
Diana Renn's debut novel ,Tokyo Heist, is a van Gogh heist mystery crossing the Pacific Ocean; from the Seattle art scene to Tokyo, Japan. The mystery element is a fun twist on the contemporary genre. It will leave you on the the edge of your seat trying to figure out this whodunit.

Our protagonist, Violet Rossi is  an American teenager who  is a bit of an otaku--a fan of Japanese pop culture. For whatever reason, I went through an anime phase in college so it was fun to see her narrative sprinkled with references to  real manga and otaku culture. The life and blood of most manga fandoms are teenage girls, so, I'm surprised it isn't present in a lot of YA fiction. 

Violet is like most teenagers (and let's face it adults) and doesn't quite know  what she wants or how to express herself. She throws herself into her own original manga, Kimono Girl, to help her deal with life's biggest and littlelst problems. Like most of us she finds fiction to be easier and less messier than reality.

 The supporting characters didn't add as much as I would have liked to the plot. They just sort of seemed to exist without an solid ground to be created around.  I really didn't like Violet's artist dad, he just seemed kind of selfish  to me. I had a hard time relating to his character and feeling sympathy.

Despite the Japanse and van Gogh art centric plot, this is not the Da Vinci Code (er, van Gogh code) for teens. There was so much telling and not enough showing of the mystery. I almost felt like the reader was being hand held and spoon fed through the often muddled story. 

While Renn hits all of the required aspects of writing a book with symbolism, foils and extended metaphors, Forever Young Adult puts it best when they say Renn "writes in a basic, straight up style that reminds me less of YA and more of middle grade".

I do think this is the perfect novel for someone toeing the line between Middle Grade and YA as far as "clean" teen fiction goes. There is a love interest, but not heavily romantic, very little violence and I'm pretty sure there is very little cursing.

This is a solid debut novel despite a few shaky storytelling techniques.  I am excited to see what she comes up with next !

*Won in the YA Amazing Race from Diana Renn. Look at the note she wrote to me ! 


  1. I reviewed this the other day and my thoughts are pretty much the same as yours! This did skew really young for me and the dad annoyed me SO MUCH. I was waiting for a redemption that never came. You're very right, it is a nice clean mystery.

  2. I just read your review and I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one. I never really noticed how kind of PG the whole book was until they decided to bring back the love interest. Compared to most YA, their relationship just seemed so innocent.

  3. Good to know! I read the first chapter and I could tell the writing wasn't going to be the element that captivated me, though I'm still excited for the story!

  4. It is a rather good story, I will say.

  5. This book sounds incredibly appealing to me. I mean, the fact that it's about Japanese culture and includes manga is already enough to draw me in. I definitely want to read this!


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