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REVIEW: Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Midori_coverDear Ms. Tokunaga,

You had me fooled. I thought you were Japanese. From the minute I started reading this, I felt like a Japanese woman was writing it, and it had been published in Japan. And since this is written from your heroine’s close point of view and she’s a Japanese woman, that’s a good thing, though not all readers might see it that way.

I am endlessly fascinated by Japan, both the good and the bad of it. The reserved Japanese styles of interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions are particularly fascinating to me, and though I’m not Japanese I felt you really nailed that aspect of the main character, at least from what I know. You portrayed the shortcomings of Midori’s style of thinking and acting when it came to her dealing with a new culture, and fairly portrayed the good and bad as she saw it of American behavior. There’s not a lot of overt emotion here, just always measured responses, which are accurate but also unfortunately not all that exciting to read about.

That kind of sums up the pros and cons of the book for me. Pro: While most of the cross-cultural romances I’ve read in the past seem to pay only lip service to a person being raised elsewhere, throwing in something akin to a tea ceremony for color, this book I think genuinely gives the reader the experience of thinking from a Japanese woman’s perspective as she looks at a new life and romance in the United States.

Cons: I think a number of readers will come upon this unaware and be dissatisfied. We already had a discussion among the reviewers here about your choice in tenses, which to my mind was accurate from a Japanese writing standpoint (since a Japanese friend confirmed to me that Japanese novels tend to be written in present tense), and because I felt that Midori was living in the “now” and trying to dissociate herself from her roots. But some readers won’t like the choice because it’s odd to the Western ear.

Also, I think some might not enjoy the romance as much because Midori approaches it in a very reserved fashion. She’s quite outspoken in Japan, but compared to San Franciscans she has a long way to go. She still keeps much to herself, and the feelings are subtle, maybe too much so. The same goes for Shinji, who actually has an American girlfriend for much of the book, though you show them as being an odd fit that drifts apart because there was nothing much there to hold them together to being with. And, we don’t get to see Shinji’s point of view, which will also be a negative for some readers. So I think this might be a hard sell with the average romance reader.

But I’m one who got into reading manga because I found English romances to be stale, and I wanted something new. This is definitely a different experience, and it really rings authentic to me. Sure, the heroine has some lucky breaks, but this is a romance. I think anyone who truly wants to experience romance and a Japanese woman’s experience in America from a different point of view would enjoy reading it, but they need to realize that’s what they’re in for. B+




This book can be purchased in trade paperback. No ebook format found. Jane’s Note: Just as an FYI, you might want to call ahead to see if your bookstore has it. I called three before I could locate a copy.

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.


  1. Maya
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 17:53:22

    i’m loving this concept of multiple reviews of the same book – you’ve each touched on different aspects, as well as some overlappingish bits. i realize the ‘j-readers’ have yards and yards of books waiting to be assessed but this multi-layered approach rocks. lucky author whose work was chosen for this critical experiment

  2. (Jān)
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 18:06:12

    Thanks! I found it interesting to do as well. Unfortunately there seem to be very few books that we all want to read. But this one had us all jumping at the chance because it was clearly different. I hope that more authors are given the chance to publish books that are out of the norm. I really did find it refreshing.

  3. Jan
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 18:06:33

    It was really interesting reading the different reviews. After the first two I wasn’t even going to bother with the last review, but I’m glad I did! You have piqued my interest and I will try to find the book!

  4. kardis
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 10:21:11

    It seems like we have similar tastes in books (at least when it comes to manga!) and after this review I am interested in trying this book. Thanks!

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