Anne Keene knows what she wants from life, finish her portrait series and become the next hot artist on the cover of Art In America magazine. But her plans take a detour when her best friend, Linda Mukagawa, enters a contest to win a Tokyo university scholarship so she can explore her Japanese roots. Anne enters certain she’ll never win. But thanks to her competitive streak, she beats out not only Linda, but fifty other students.
Anne’s dreams of fame are officially as wet as her Green Day T-shirt as she unpacks her bag in the Tokyo summer heat. Things are about to get even worse when she discovers a to-do-list from Linda. Racked with guilt for practically stealing the scholarship from her best friend, Anne is determined to complete the list. All she has to do is chronicle her adventures, find a famous boyfriend, and visit Linda’s relatives to find out what’s hidden in the family closet.
But Anne has a bigger problem than Linda’s list, she’s living with the Host Family from Hell. The father stops speaking to her after she “murders” his favorite bonsai tree. The mother believes Anne’s evil because she’s left-handed and the brother’s an Elvis impersonator. To escape her crazy home and complete the list, Anne treks off to find Linda’s relatives. When Linda’s cousins spill the family dirt, Anne discovers Linda's heritage may not be what it seems and by telling her the truth, she may end up risking their friendship for good.
This screams contrivance to me. Everything is there cause you want it, not cause it fits with the characters. It's an odd thing, since of course this is a novel and you DO put everything there, but there has to be a sense that these characters and this plot have purple hair for a reason, not simply cause that was the only color left on your palette.