An entertaining read with an insightful window into the world of modeling and quirky Japanese subculture.
I selected this enjoyable indie after one look at the blurb. For me, one reason to read indie is to discover new voices and stories that break the mold and are different from what the traditional market has to offer. The Tokyo Cover Girls is such a book. Told from the points of views of three western girls—Jess, Blake and Hailey—the author pulls you into a journey of jealousy, manipulation, and the harsh realities of the dog-eat-dog modeling world. Although embarked on the same journey, the girls are as different from each other as oil and water and, as such, don’t mix very well. Jess is a force of nature, with well-defined plans to make enough modeling money to pay for law school. Blake is a fiery blonde, trying to rise from the ashes of a broken home. And Hailey is a sweet and naïve dreamer who hopes modeling will give her the opportunity to pursue a career in fashion design. Their voices are unique, and the author does an excellent job in imbuing each of them with a distinctive personality.
As the girls move through Tokyo’s modeling world trying to find their next contract, personalities clash. The scene is competitive and only the cutest and most adorable model will sign with prospective clients. But things aren’t going well for any of them, putting their personal goals at risk. Soon, they are all a bit desperate, willing to take on any opportunity, which makes them prime victims in a plot larger than themselves. They are placed in scary situations that the author manages to make funny in a satirical way, pulling many laughs from the reader.
At times, the girls can come across as slow to realize the plot evolving around them. This reader wanted to shake them a few times and tell them “don’t you see what’s going on around you?” But the girls are true to their young age and personalities: lack of confidence in Hailey’s case, one-mindedness in Jess’s, and over-confidence in Blake’s. Their male interests—there is no real romance in the story—are entertaining, if a bit on the light side. The relationships between the girls and the boys move on too fast. They quickly share deep feelings which are too intense for the one or two casual meetings they share. A little more interaction would have likely helped make their relationships more believable.
In all, The Tokyo Cover Girls is an interesting YA read with a quick pace and great characters. It offers an enjoyable taste of Japan in all its strangeness and glory.