Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be a part of Brenda St. John Brown’s blog tour for her book, Swimming to Tokyo (July 28, 2014, Spencer Hill Contemporary)! For my blog tour stop, I have an excerpt to share with you. First, here’s some more information about Swimming to Tokyo:
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.
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And now here’s the excerpt. Enjoy!
I’m halfway across the floor to the pool when I see Akihiro and Finn come through the door from the weight room to the right. I have a good seven seconds to watch them strip their shirts off before they see me. Both of them are lean and muscular, although my eyes are drawn to Finn. I was right about the tattoo. Up his arm, across his shoulder. It’s huge. I was right about his muscles, too. Although his biceps have nothing on his abs. My God. I didn’t even know real people had abs like that. They look Photoshopped.
“Hey, I thought you went to shower,” Akihiro calls.
It’s still disconcerting to hear perfect English coming out of his mouth. Born in Hiroshima, his parents moved to London when he was five and then to Chicago when he was eleven. He doesn’t even have an accent anymore, although thank God he speaks fluent Japanese.
“I’m going.” I pick up my goggles and twirl them on my finger. “I left these.”
They’re close enough now that I see the sweat glistening on their skin.
“How was your swim?” Finn asks. His eyes flicker over my swimsuit before they land on my face, and I’m glad I’m in my black Speedo and not the blue one that’s all ratty around the edges.
“Rough.” I roll my eyes. “Amazing what three-plus weeks of slacking will do.”
“So if we raced, I might win?” He smiles and I try to focus on his teeth and not all that skin. To ignore that tattoo. A snake? A long, spiky black tail zigzags down his bicep, ending just below his elbow. It’s mesmerizing and it’s all I can do not to run my fingernail over it, to trace the outline of raised skin underneath what looks like the creature’s spine.
But that would be wildly inappropriate.
“I’ll drown before you win.”
“Talk is cheap.” He throws his shirt on the bench. “I win and you eat uni.”
I make a face. I like sushi, but the sea urchin looks like baby poo and I can’t imagine it tastes much better. I accidentally ordered it when I stopped for lunch in Yokohama last week, despite my careful conversation with the waitress. I even made her come to the front window with me so I could point at the plastic food, but apparently my pointing didn’t match up with my words. The plate of sushi that came had not only uni, but smoked unagi, which is eel. I couldn’t eat any of it and ended up just downing the rice.
“Fine. I win and you come to Tsukiji Market with me tomorrow.” This isn’t really as bad as his until I add the last part. “At eight AM”
Finn isn’t a morning person. At all. The one time we met up before noon, he was totally grumpy until at least two. But the fish market peaks between eight and ten and closes up by one. Dad has said he’ll go with me, although it’s not exactly his idea of a perfect Saturday morning either.
Finn perches at the edge of the pool. “Okay, deal. You’re totally losing.”
I fit my goggles over my eyes and put my toes over the edge on the lane next to him. “Oh, I totally am not.”
“Dude, you’re gonna lose,” Akihiro says to Finn.
“Shut up and count to three,” Finn says. To me, he says, “Up and back. First one to touch this wall wins.”
Akihiro counts down, and we dive into the pool. I don’t look over at Finn, just freestyle for the wall. One thing I learned on the swim team is to ignore my competition. Other people use it to spur themselves on, but it just intimidates me. I do much better when I get in a zone, and now is no different. My lungs burn before I even touch the far side, but I kick hard when I get there to give myself an extra push off the wall. Halfway back, I feel myself slowing down and I hope Finn hates swimming as much as he’s said he does. Those earlier laps took it all out of me. My arms feel like they’re moving in slow motion above my head, and my kicks barely make a splash. It feels like my chest is going to explode by the time I lurch for the wall, gasping for breath.
I push my goggles up, wiping the water away from my face and look around the pool. Akihiro pumps his fist in the air at me. A splash and Finn touches the wall beside me, panting. “Jesus Christ.”
I’ve caught my breath enough to be able to pant, “Told you so.”
“There’s no way.”
“You picked the wrong stroke. Never breast stroke when you’re racing. It wastes too much energy.” I hang over the rope. “Mine. Seven-fifteen.”
“You’re a bitch.” But he grins as he says it. “I’ll be there with bells on.”
“Make sure you bring coffee.” I extend my hand to Akihiro to help me out of the pool. “We’ll see you guys out front in fifteen minutes.”
I hurry through my shower and join Amelia in front of the mirror where she’s drying her hair section by section. “What happened to you?”
I dot cover up over my nose and under my eyes, brush mascara over my lashes. “I had a last-minute race with Finn.”
“A race?” She wrinkles her nose. “Why?”
“We were messing around.” I smile because I can’t quite keep it to myself. “I won.”
“He let you win?”
“No. He’s coming early to the fish market with me tomorrow. If he won, I had to eat uni.”
“I’d rather eat uni than get up at the crack to go to a damn fish market.” Amelia grimaces and then asks, “What’s the deal with you two anyway?”
“No deal. We’re friends.” I can never quite make myself put the “just” in there. “Why?”
“Naoko was asking.” Naoko is Dad’s assistant. She’s young, sweet, and the only reason I actually have a cell phone after Dad and I bungled our attempt to buy a pay-as-you-go on my fourth day here. God knows what we would have ended up with if she hadn’t come along on her lunch break.
“Yeah, he’s…I don’t know. He’s available as far as I know.” My stomach churns a little as I say it. It’s true. He is. And aside from an occasional sizzle, things between us are totally platonic. No matter how much I think about what it might be like to kiss him.
About Brenda St. John Brown:
Brenda St John Brown is a displaced New Yorker living in the English countryside. She hasn’t quite adapted to the idea of fireworks in November (despite now being a dual US/UK citizen), but she knows not to call trousers pants & often finds herself saying things are lovely…a word that never crossed her lips until she passed through UK immigration. She writes YA & NA fiction. When she’s not writing, Brenda loves running, reading and traveling, & talking about Greek mythology with her son.
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Hey thanks for posting this! I’m always curious about books that are set in Japan. As I said on twitter, I’m curious if the author has ever lived in Japan before.
From what I’ve read so far it seems pretty good… but the tattoo at the swimming pool thing isn’t realistic. Tattoos are banned in most public places (swimming pools, hot springs). So I’m curious if this is a private pool, or what. I laughed at the uni part, that stuff is gross! If I don’t get approve for this on EW I’ll probably grab it from Amazon.