By Julie Abe
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Tessa Miyata has never fit in. When she and her two sisters are told they will be staying at their grandparents in Japan, Tessa is thrilled. A summer in Japan could be her chance to go on an adventure worthy of impressing her classmates back home.
Her hopes are quickly dashed when, all too soon, she realizes that life in Japan is just like being in California: her sisters are old enough to go into Tokyo, while she can’t even go to the corner store by herself. Plus, her grandparents want her to stay home with the neighbor kid, thirteen-year-old Jin Uehara, who’s made it clear he’s too cool to spend time with a weirdo like her.
When Tessa is finally allowed to go to Tokyo, it’s only to join her grandpa’s retiree aerobic class with none other than Jin. Their disastrous forced hang out comes crashing to a halt when Tessa and Jin break the Miyata family’s precious heirloom—accidentally releasing the malicious samurai god Taira Masakado and discovering a hidden part of the city where gods and mythological creatures walk among humans—including their new companion, a mythical nine-tailed fox who may be more trouble than he is help.
Despite doing everything to avoid spending another minute together, Tessa and Jin must now work together to stop Taira Masakado before he traps them—and the rest of Tokyo—under his command, forever.
Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Graci Kim, this brand new fantasy adventure will grip readers from the very first page and never let go.
TESSA’S STUDY GUIDE FOR LIFE IN JAPAN
“-chan”/“-kun”/“-sama”—You stick “-chan”/“-kun” at the end of names for friends, like Tessa-chan, Jin-kun (like, if he was actually my friend). “-sama” is an honorific for important people.
bō—A wood staff, definitely not used for playing with at home.
daruma—A round doll, usually red, that has just one eye painted in. The owner makes a wish, and only fills in the other eye when it’s completed.
Jagabee—Basically potato chips in the shape of french fries, but extra tasty.
katana—Super sharp sword; don’t play with these at home.
kitsune—A troublemaking fox with supposedly legendary powers. Seriously, if you see a kitsune, DO NOT APPROACH IT. They’re trouble, I tell you, trouble.
maneki neko—A cat figurine that beckons in good fortune. I need another twenty million of these.
manju—A Japanese confection that is absolutely divine. Think of those mochi ice creams, but more like a cake, and usually with traditional fillings like sweet red bean.
Meiji Jingu—A super-majestic shrine built in the 1920s, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, located in Tokyo.
Obaachan—Grandma, aka gives the best hugs.
Ojiichan—Grandpa, aka the sweetest old guy ever.
ōkami—A mythical wolf.
omamori—A protection charm, usually with a specific focus, like driver safety or good grades.
omikuji—Fortunes that are usually written out on strips of paper, sorted into levels of luck.
shimenawa—A purification rope made of woven rice straw or hemp. It often has lightning-shaped paper streamers attached for enhanced strength.
shuriken—Also known as a throwing star. Again, definitely don’t play with these at home.
Taira Masakado—A formidable samurai from the 900s (seriously, he did exist!) with a really intense history. He tried to rise up against the government, then got assassinated… but that’s not where the stories end. There’s tons of tales of him wreaking havoc, even after his death, as a vengeful spirit.…
tatami—Traditional Japanese straw flooring, smells amazing.
temple vs. shrine—Japanese temples are Buddhist; Japanese shrines are Shinto.
Tokyo—The capital city of Japan.
torii—A gate that’s often at the entrance to Japanese shrines; it marks the start of a sacred place.
tsuba—The nifty guard piece that keeps your hand from sliding onto the sharp blades of katanas and other pointy weapons. Often created in intricate designs.
Yakult—One of the most refreshing snacks in the universe, a drinkable yogurt in the smallest, cutest container ever. There are healthy probiotic-things inside, so I always tell Cecilia and Peyton (my sisters) that Yakult is totally essential for my health. And, um, okay, it tastes amazing, too.
Location: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, USA
TESSA MIYATA KNEW SHE WAS CURSED. WHAT ELSE could she call seeing a masked woman in white, gliding toward her in the middle of the modern art museum with an enormous wolf trotting at her side?
And this was only day one of summer art camp. Back in sixth grade, at least she’d lasted a month before Allison Heinrich, her “best friend,” told her she was a freak and never talked to her again. She’d spent the past year alone and friendless, fitting for the weirdo that she was.
Right now, things weren’t any better. Especially not with that creepy woman heading straight toward her—and this wasn’t the first time this ghostly visitor had found her. Long, black hair swirled along the sleeves of her pure white kimono; the woman’s face was hidden with a white mask of a wolf. Not to mention the actual gigantic shimmering wolf, its smoky-yellow eyes looking at Tessa like it could easily polish her off as a midday snack.
The kitsune charm on Tessa’s scarlet bracelet clinked warningly. That wasn’t good. She’d had it as long as she could remember, and whenever she tried to cut the bracelet off, it always reappeared—yet no one could see it but her. The weirdest part? Without fail, when trouble was brewing, the fox charm always signaled that something ominous was to come.
Ding! Her heart pounded in her ears as she tried to keep listening to the group of four friends she’d met during the introductions a few hours earlier, as they all eagerly talked about some sort of watercolor technique.
“That’s so neat,” Tessa said, fidgeting with the charm, trying to make it stop—not that anyone else could hear its sounds. “I never knew art like this was made with dog scratching.”
“Dry scratching,” one of the girls laughed, her dark eyes crinkling into a smile. “Ooh, and look at this piece!”
Ding, ding! The other four had been really fun so far. They’d pointed out things Tessa would’ve never noticed about the pastel watercolors hung in silver frames, like all the secret designs hidden in the shapes of the clouds or the way the artist’s signature also looked like a cloud. The real reason Tessa was here was because this art camp was a last resort. Unbelievably, though, these four artsy girls seemed to like being around her. But their friendship wouldn’t last long if—
“Tessa Miyata, this is our last chance to communicate.” The woman’s voice thundered, ominous as an incoming storm, as her shadowy body walked straight through the closest boy. Tessa’s new friends drifted toward the next art piece, still chatting, but dread froze Tessa’s feet. Last chance? Did that mean she was finally going to be left alone? When the woman had first appeared—at the beginning of sixth grade, no less—she’d been silent, her mouth moving but no words coming out. But, over time, she’d begun talking. And saying “Tessa Miyata” in that super intensely serious way seemed to be her favorite phrase.
Not here, not here. My sisters are never going to forgive me. Gram can’t afford another summer camp. She tugged her too-long bangs over her eyes, like that would stop the ghostly visitor from seeing her. “Hey, I’m going to run to the bathroom!”
One of the girls piped up, “I’ll go with you—”
“No!” Tessa tried to suppress the anxiety in her voice. “Um, it’s okay. I’ll go by myself.” She couldn’t stomach seeing another once-friend stare in dismay, comprehending Tessa for the freak that she was. As she darted toward the closest exit, the counselor protested, “Where do you think you’re going?”
Tessa was awkwardly loud in the otherwise hushed gallery, that nervousness popping out all at once. “Bathroom!”
Her echoes reverberated, burning her face crimson. “Bathroom, bathroom, bathroom!”
A few of the campmates hid their snickers. She’d be remembered as Bathroom Girl for the rest of the day, at least. But that was way better than the alternative.
Tessa rushed into a narrow hallway, but it only seemed to lead to the gift shop. Why were gift shops always easier to find than anything else in a museum? Still, she ducked behind a display of postcards and tried to calm her beating heart. She’d wait out the weird woman and that wolf for fifteen minutes or so—they tended to leave after a while—and find her group of friends, apologizing for accidentally drinking her sister’s glass of milk this morning, instead of her normal almond milk, when she was lactose intolerant.
That would work, if only the woman in white wasn’t standing in front of her, misty eyes staring straight back.
Tessa stifled a shriek. She couldn’t let anyone see her freaking out from what everyone else saw as empty air.
At the mysterious woman’s side, the enormous wolf let out a fierce growl. Then the woman spoke, with that voice like clashing swords: “Time is running out. You must heed my warning, or those around you will suffer the consequences.”
Talk about cursed.
Tessa looked around. The gift shop was otherwise empty, except for the cashier who had headed to the other side of the store to restock a display of art prints.
“Just leave me alone, please,” she whispered.
Hopefully, her older sisters weren’t too close by—they were in the high school group of campers, in another section of the museum, but they always seemed to sense when Tessa was in trouble. A few months ago, Peyton and Cecilia had caught her trying to argue with the woman in white (though all of Tessa’s reasoning hadn’t encouraged her to stay away) in the parking lot behind their apartment. They thought she was talking to a tree, and they’d been worried about her ever since.
The woman’s voice seemed different this time, almost desperate for Tessa to heed her words. “I am but a shadow messenger, one who comes before great change. This is the thirteenth and last warning. You must learn the ways of the past to fight the present—”
Tessa wanted to plug in her earbuds and listen to her favorite playlist, extra loud and on repeat. She’d tried that before, actually, but her misty visitor had somehow overridden Jungkook’s vocals. She tried to wave her off. “Maybe later—”
There was a prickle on her shoulders, coming from the entrance. Tessa spun around.
It was one of the kids from her summer camp, with messy sandy-red hair and sharp green eyes, staring from behind the display of coffee table books. Worse, he had a phone in his hands, pointed at her.
She could already imagine what this looked like to him. Tessa staring into empty air, talking to herself, hand held out. Great first impression.
Tessa grinned. “Like my rehearsal? I’m planning on auditioning for my school play—”
“I heard about you,” snorted the kid. “You know Allison Heinrich? She’s my cousin. That video she took of you slaps. It trended faster than any other clip on Now-Look. One million views in an hour, a record.”
The bitter ache of losing her best friend seared the most when she was walking behind a crowd of classmates, and all of them were giggling at whatever Allison—now the most popular kid in school—had said. Or when Tessa tried to make a joke, and the teacher laughed, but all her classmates stared down at their desks, following Allison’s lead.
From the moment Allison and Tessa had met in sixth grade homeroom, with matching Aggretsuko notebooks—they were both die-hard fans of the show—they had been inseparable. Tessa had moved from friend group to friend group before, never really belonging, but for once, she’d found someone who finally understood her. Allison laughed at all of her punch lines and told the funniest stories in return about the trips that she always took with her sales director father, and never asked awkward questions about Tessa’s family being only her sisters and Gram. Allison even loved watching My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer, too, and didn’t mind Tessa’s trips to their middle school library to check out another pile of books.
They’d demolish the party-sized fries in the cafeteria, their heads bent together as they hashed out the latest episode of Jujutsu Kaisen. They were the unpopular kids, true, but they laughed about that, because they had each other. Still, Allison told her about how she’d been popular at her last school, and made it sound like it had been a world of difference. Back then, Allison’s Now-Look account had even trended in her city, which had been perfect since she’d wanted to become a film producer and NowLook was the place to show off your talents.
So Allison and Tessa concocted wild plans to become popular: steal Mr. Hahn’s famously ugly mustard tie and show it off; score backstage passes to the next BTS concert and become best friends with the members; invent a time machine to travel to the future and figure out all the trends before they started. But their plans were all for fun, because Tessa figured who needed other people when they had each other?
Thirty-six days after the start of sixth grade (not that she had counted), Tessa had been trying to dodge yet another “friendly” visit from the woman in white. She’d hidden behind the school buildings as she begged the woman and the wolf to stop bothering her; she’d tried shouting in English and Japanese just to make her point clear. She’d even typed out her message on her phone and waved it in front of their faces. Anyway, no matter what she did, the woman kept blathering on about some warning, and by the end Tessa was yelling loudly. But thankfully, no one paid attention to a nobody like her.
No one except the one other person who knew what it was like to be a nobody.
Allison followed her, recorded a video of her lecturing what looked to be the dumpster, and uploaded it onto her NowLook account. Tessa returned to a giggling classroom, their eyes glued to their screens, with Allison cozy in the middle.
The rest, as they say, was history. Especially since that video of “The Middle School Dumpster Weirdo” was living forever in everyone’s view history.
Every time Tessa tried to approach Allison, she would disappear in a crowd of her new friends, laughing their heads off. Her ex-best-friend was good at jokes, and Tessa was the butt of this one.
“I wonder what this will do for my NowLook stats,” the boy said, snickering, as he jabbed the phone screen.
Tessa could almost see the worry on Peyton and Cecilia’s faces. The way her older sisters would look at her as they tried to get NowLook to pull down the video, as they told all their friends to stop watching. But even though her older sisters were popular in high school, once things went viral, it was beyond their control.
Then an idea flashed in her mind. Tessa turned to the misty woman, who was still going on about all sorts of timely warnings about doom and destruction.
“Please,” she whispered. The cornered helplessness felt like she was stuck in slime, unable to move. “Help me. I need to make it so that video never existed.”
The wolf growled, and the Tessa expected the woman to drone on about her cursed destiny, but—
“You will owe me a favor, then.”
Tessa would have promised the world if she could just not be teased, not have to see her face show up on all her classmates’ posts, and their laughing, laughing comments.
“What is it?” A shiver ran down her neck and along her arms.
“You must accept this.” The woman reached her right arm across her body, toward the sleeve of her kimono—and the dagger sheath dangling from her waist—and Tessa tensed.
But the woman’s long, graceful fingers swept up, to her mask. With a fluid motion, she pulled it off—only to reveal a face swathed in shadows, with misty eyes that glittered under the halogen lights—and held out the mask.
Tessa stared at the carved wood warily. Bold streaks of red paint lined the eyes and dotted its forehead. The mask was in the shape of a fierce ōkami, the legendary wolf said to be a messenger of spirits.
She had a feeling that things delivered by shadowy messengers weren’t usually a winning lottery ticket or a get-out-of-school pass. “Um, what is it?”
“It will help guide you to your greater fate,” the woman said.
“I don’t want something to pick my fate for me,” Tessa protested.
“The choice is always yours,” the woman said. “However, to allow yourself a fighting chance, you must accept this before it’s too late.”
The boy was snickering. “Seventy-five percent uploaded!”
Options flashed through her mind in a split second. She could refuse the mask and face the ridicule of her new campmates. She could take the mask and possibly just stuff it under her bed and forget about it, right? Or burn it? How could a mask guide her toward her fate?
Or, maybe, if she accepted the wolf mask, this messenger might have answers. A reason for why she saw these things no one else did. A reason why she never fit in.
Tessa had a feeling she’d regret either option. But if Peyton and Cecilia had to see Tessa’s face splashed on the homepage of the NowLook app again… The way their foreheads always crinkled with concern for Tessa burned at her heart.
Cursed or not, she never wanted to see her sisters look like that again.
“Yes, I promise. I accept the mask.”
“Keizoku ha chikaranari.”
“W-what?” Tessa’s Japanese was pretty good after tons of Saturday classes, but this seemed to be a saying she hadn’t heard before. Or maybe a warning. “‘Don’t give up’? Give up on what?”
But there was no time to ask further. The mask appeared in her hand in a flash. The carved wood was slippery underneath her fingertips.
“This is the final warning,” the woman repeated, her voice fading, as if the powers that had brought her here were starting to wane.
“But—this makes no sense—”
The woman and the wolf shifted, turning away. “We may—if you make the choice—meet again.”
With that, the shadowy woman and her wolf began to move. Time seemed to speed up, and Tessa could barely breathe.
Metal on metal rang through the gift shop as the woman drew her dagger. A split second later, the wolf lunged forward. The boy, still laughing to himself, didn’t see both woman and wolf move in a swirl of white mist, nor did he understand why Tessa gasped in shock, but he did look up—
Just as the wolf’s sharp teeth tore through the phone and it burst into shattered pieces. The boy shrieked as he fell backward. His wide eyes swiveled around the gift shop wildly, not seeing the woman right in front of him as she disappeared into thin air. The only remaining trace of her was the mask in Tessa’s hand—and the gigantic wolf.
It growled, looking down at the boy on the floor like it was about to eat him.
“Please don’t eat him,” Tessa whispered. “My sisters will absolutely murder me.”
The wolf turned toward Tessa, eyes fixated on her.
“Oh, no, no.” Tessa shook her head firmly. “Definitely eat the boy. He’s way tastier.”
The wolf pushed off his giant paws, lunging straight at her—
She couldn’t move away in time, not fast enough for this. Tessa held out the mask in front of her, not that it’d be any protection, just as the wolf’s fangs flashed—
But the wolf jumped into the mask, the wood warming under Tessa’s fingertips. Before Tessa could drop it, the wolf-faced mask shrunk impossibly small, no bigger than her thumbnail, and attached itself to the red bracelet. The tiny ōkami tapped against the kitsune charm, tinkling again like a warning.
Yikes and Yakult. What was that?
But Tessa couldn’t inspect it now. She was in trouble.
“Freak!” the boy shrieked, rushing forward with fists curled. “You broke my phone!”
“What in the world is going on?” From the far wall, rolls of art prints tumbled out of the cashier’s hands.
Tessa and the boy were ten feet apart. There was no possible way she could’ve done anything.… But she knew things were never right or just, and when the boy searched for someone to blame, it’d end up being her. He pounded toward her, and Tessa threw up her hands to protect herself—
A shadow darted between them.
The boy slammed into the interloper and tumbled onto his backside, crying out in surprise.
Tessa was saved, but also in deeper trouble than before. And so was the kid, who gulped as he stared up at Tessa’s older sister, taking in the black velvet choker, slick braids wound into double buns (laced with scarily sharp studs), and her hand on her black denim-clad hip.
“Think twice before you call my sister a freak,” Peyton said, warningly, using her height to her full advantage. With her all-black outfits, she always looked way older than her actual sixteen years.
Then Cecilia kneeled next to the boy. “C’mon. Let’s go get you cleaned up. I’ll make sure your phone gets fixed, too.”
The oldest Miyata sister at seventeen years old, Cecilia was gentle and beautiful, and usually in a charming pastel floral dress that matched her sweet, kind personality. To the boy, she must’ve seemed like a guardian angel, swooping in to save him. He sniffled, and nodded.
“I was going to handle this,” Tessa said. “You didn’t need to worry.”
“We’ve got your back.” Peyton drew her gaze up from the shards of the phone, concern shimmering in her eyes.
Guilt weighed down Tessa’s shoulders, with a heaviness she couldn’t quite shake off. So quiet that no one could hear her, she said, “I tried to handle it myself.”
“What’s happened?” a voice snapped from the entrance.
The counselor stood there, with the other middle school campmates trailing behind her. Tessa’s new friends peeked around the counselor, their eyes wide as they stared at the shattered phone and the angry boy, and then warily looked at her.
“All four of you,” snapped the counselor. “Get over here, now.”
Peyton had to nudge Tessa toward the thunderous-looking adult. Cecilia guided over the boy; she was being extra kind, probably hoping it might help the boy or his parents from getting too mad at the Miyata family. Already, Tessa could visualize Gram—their late mom’s mother, not to be confused with her grandparents from her dad’s side in Japan—slumping over the kitchen table, trying to figure out who would take care of Tessa now that she’d been kicked out of yet another summer camp, while Gram had to work her long shifts at the grocery store. Peyton and Cecilia had offered to watch over her, but ever since Tessa had started getting in trouble for seeing things, their grandma had never let Tessa out of an adult’s sight—what if the neighbor kids began bullying Tessa again, what if they uploaded another video—not that it had ever seemed to really help.
In so many ways, it felt like Tessa had cursed her family just by being alive. Her parents had passed away in a car accident when she was around a year old; Gram had saved Tessa and her sisters from getting split into different foster homes. But it’d come at a cost: Instead of enjoying knitting her way through retirement, Gram, her black hair streaked with white, was working until her knobby fingers and stooped back were aching, so that the Miyata sisters had an apartment to stay in and they wouldn’t get separated. Her sisters, likewise, would protect Tessa to their dying breaths—and she wished that she could do anything for them. But she was the younger sister that they had to take care of, especially when she got into messes like these.
Later that night, if Tessa peeked into the kitchen, Gram would likely be flipping through her checkbook again, murmuring to herself, worrying about how to repay the boy’s family for the broken phone, and how to stretch out the money for the bills.…
Someday, Tessa swore, her eyes burning as she slunk past her campmates, the counselor’s hand like a claw in her shoulder, and the new charm heavy on her wrist. Someday, she’d no longer be a burden to Gram. Someday, she would be able to take care of her sisters. Someday, she’d finally be able to save those she loved.
Halfway across the globe, a long-shut door creaked open as an answer, like a veil parting between worlds. Whispers and wishes formed into puffs of air and began to slip and slither through the dark, creeping toward the light.…
- "Yikes and Yakult! Julie Abe has done it again. Brimming with heart and humor, Abe takes us on a fantastical adventure into the heart of magical Tokyo. Gods! Trials! Japanese mythology! Full of action and emotion, I was gripped to the edge of my seat until the very last page. The start of a thrilling new series you don’t want to miss."—Graci Kim, bestselling author of The Last Fallen Star
- "A delightfully spirited Japanese mythology–inspired adventure that’s full of heart."—Kirkus
- “Tessa Miyata Is No Hero is my favorite combination of fun, heartful, and kick-butt. It's the girl-led shounen anime tween-me always wanted!"—Kaela Rivera, author of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
- “At once heartrending and heartwarming, this thrilling, magical tale of finding one’s inner strength will show that Tessa Miyata is more than a hero—she is a legend!”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Xiran Jay Zhao
- “Abe skillfully builds a world, drawing on elements of Japanese religion, art, food, and architecture in an energizing wash of sensory descriptions….readers will be thrilled by the dramatic and epic stakes imbued into action sequences. Looping repeatedly around the Japanese proverb, ‘After the rain, the earth hardens,’ Tessa’s journey provides young readers with a new heroine whose emotional core is rock solid.” —BCCB
Praise for Alliana, Girl of Dragons:
"Alliana, Girl of Dragons made my heart soar! This beautiful and moving story celebrates internal strength, enduring familial love, and the life-changing power of friendship."—Alyssa Colman, author of The Gilded Girl
- “Abe proves herself a master at creating worlds both exciting and comforting as she takes readers on whirlwind adventures. Alliana’s indomitable spirit will delight and excite as she courageously embraces her dreams and encourages readers to do the same."—Adrianna Cuevas, author of the Pura Belpré honor book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and Cuba in My Pocket
- On Sale
- Aug 22, 2023
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers