Swimming to Tokyo by Brenda St. John Brown
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: July 28, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Format: eARC, 235 pages
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Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
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.
I can’t even begin to tell you just how much I loved Swimming to Tokyo – and I’m pretty sure my review won’t do it justice – but I’m gonna try. From the minute I saw it on NetGalley and read the blurb, I knew I had to read it and that I would very likely love it. I was so right.
Zosia’s life is turned upside down pretty early on in this book. Her mom passed away a few years ago and she’s still dealing with that loss. Now her dad tells her he’s moving to Tokyo for work and he’s going to rent out their home while he’s gone. Oh, and he has a girlfriend who will be in Tokyo, too. Zosia agrees to accompany him to Tokyo for the summer. She’s excited to shake things up a bit, but she doesn’t know just what she’s getting herself into. Imagine her surprise when she discovers the guy she has had a crush on since high school, a guy she’s seen around town lately and had some pretty interesting encounters with, is her dad’s girlfriend’s son. He’s spending some time in Tokyo this summer, too.
While there’s a lot to love about this book, my favorite part, hands down, is the characters. I loved Zosia. She was a regular girl dealing with a loss that changed her life forever. She’s not perfect and she’s self-aware enough to know it. She was a regular girl and the type of person I’d be friends with in real life. She was strong, smart and sassy. Finn was sweet and swoony, but he hadn’t always been. The boy had a real piece of work for a father and he spent his life thinking he was just like him. He’s spent some time in juvie and has quite an illustrious reputation with the ladies.
There’s an undeniable attraction between Zosia and Finn from the beginning, but neither of them really think they’re good enough for the other. Despite this, they begin to grow closer while they’re in Tokyo. I loved watching them get to know each other and grow closer. Of course, the ticking clock of the time when they both leave Tokyo to head home hangs over both of their heads and they, along with the friends and family, have to wonder if this thing between them would have happened back in the US. Was it a convenience? Was it real? Would it last? Or would Zosia wind up with a broken heart, again, at the end of the summer? Is she willing to go against her dad’s wishes and take a chance anyhow?
There was a fair bit of drama throughout this book. There were misunderstandings and miscommunications, but none of them were TOO MUCH, if you know what I mean. Each of these characters were dealing with a lot, as well as each other’s baggage, and it all felt real to me. I could sympathize with each of them, even if I wanted to scream at them and tell them to stop being ridiculous at times. But even with all the ups and downs, I loved how Zosia and Finn found both each other and themselves during their summer in Tokyo. There’s a tremendous amount of character development for each of them.
One of my favorite dynamics in this book was the one between Zosia and her grandmother. Babci and Zosia had a very special relationship and I’m sure most of that stems from her being a mother figure to Zosia after her mother passed away. She was often the voice of reason – and encouragement – when Zosia needed it most.
Swimming to Tokyo really is new adult contemporary at its best. It’s an incredible debut book and is one of my favorites of the year so far. The portrayal of friendship, love and familial relationships in the book were real and genuine and completely believable. It was chock full of feels, emotions and sexy times. I’ll definitely be looking for more from Brenda St. John Brown in the future.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.