Tessa Miyata Is No Hero (Tessa Miyata, #1) by Julie Abe
A magical story about being yourself and fighting for what and who you love.
After a difficult school year, highlighted by her best friend dumping her for a "cooler" bunch of kids, Tessa Miyata and her older sisters are sent to spend the summer with her grandparents outside Tokyo. She is excited at first, with loads of opportunities to post pictures to her usually boring social media accounts of her exciting adventures in this exotic location that are sure to impress her former bestie and her new crowd. But the reality is that while her older sisters are allowed to head into the city for fun with friends their age, Tessa's grandparents won't let her out of their sight. To top things off, they seem set on her making friends with the son of one of their neighbors, who makes it abundantly clear that he has other plans for his summer, and they don't include Tessa. But during an impromptu trip into town, the two accidentally break a family heirloom belonging to her grandparents and are drawn through a portal into a magical city hidden from human eyes. Along with a mystical creature, a nine-tailed fox, they must work to stop a mythical samurai god on a rampage through the real Tokyo!
Tessa Miyata Is No Hero is a magical story by acclaimed author Julie Abe, and it is the debut novel in a new middle-grade fantasy series featuring young heroine Tessa Miyata. With its engaging main characters and fresh, fantastic plot drawing on exciting Japanese history and mythology, the story is guaranteed to capture the imagination of readers, young and old alike.
Tessa is a vibrant, realistic, and likable character, much loved by her older sisters, Peyton and Cecilia, and grandparents. Like many middle-grade students, she is weathering a difficult school year as her former best friend abandons her for a more popular crowd. But a summer in Japan with her grandparents there changes her entire life and outlook. As Tessa and Jin battle an evil out to destroy Tokyo, they also struggle to overcome some inner demons. I appreciated that Tessa's character is surrounded and supported by loving family members and that she sees and recognizes their love: not often the case in many middle-grade novels, which is nice for a change. She's a loving and sympathetic character with the same fears most children her age experience, and she works to overcome them in spectacular fashion.
The Japanese setting is vivid and dramatic, mixing ancient and modern, a mortal city and a City of Legends. Wisps of culture and language are sprinkled throughout, with a quick explanation when needed, and these help anchor the story in time and place; there's no mistaking the characters are anywhere but Japan. Early mentions of well-known areas and venues near Tokyo further establish the feeling of place.
From start to finish, the plot is non-stop action, with elements of fantasy appearing right away. Readers learn Tessa's emotional backstory along the way as the story continues to move ahead without any expositional downtime. And, once she and her sisters are in Japan, the pace quickens even more.
The chapters are short enough for younger readers who need more frequent breaks; however, they frequently stop in the middle of a scene. I felt compelled to read on, and I think others will, too. The story would make a good read-aloud choice, and the cliffhanger chapter endings may have listeners clamoring for "just a little bit more."
I recommend TESSA MIYATA IS NO HERO to middle-grade readers, especially those who enjoy fantasy adventures. While perfect for all genders, this may be a good selection for girls wanting a book featuring a young female action hero.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.