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Red Tea, by Meg Mezeske.

July 10, 2018

Red Tea
Red Tea, by Meg Mezeske.  City Owl, 2018.

4 stars

An enjoyable mystery, set in a high school in Japan and featuring a young woman who is an exchange teacher from the United States.

Like Jordan, the main character in Red Tea, Meg Mezeske is a young American woman who spent a year teaching in a high school in rural Japan.   Although not autobiographical, Mezeske’s experiences provided her with the experiences and knowledge to create her novel.

When Jordan arrives at the Japanese school, rumors are swirling about the deaths of students.  She quickly gets involved with detective work to identify the killer, and with the police detective leading the investigations.  The plot develops quickly, putting her in danger before the murderer is identified.  Conflicting values around sex and gender are treated calmly and sympathetically.   Characters are distinctly drawn, but they all seemed very young to me.

Red Tea is somewhat like Gina in the Floating World, both featuring young American women coming of age in Japan. (See my review.) The difference between them is sharp, however, reflecting the difference between a conventional high school and the traditional Japanese “floating world” with its deeper sense of fluidity, rejection of responsibility, and shifting identities.  Perhaps young adult readers would be the ones most likely to appreciate Red Tea.  The book is light and well written and I recommend it particularly to young adults.

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