by Amanda Sun
Published on 2013-06-25
Genres: Culture, Mythology, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
On the heels of a family tragedy, Katie Greene must move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn't know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks and she can't seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.
So when Katie meets aloof but gorgeous Tomohiro, the star of the school's kendo team, she is intrigued by him…and a little scared. His tough attitude seems meant to keep her at a distance, and when they're near each other, strange things happen. Pens explode. Ink drips from nowhere. And unless Katie is seeing things, drawings come to life.
Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, powerful ancient beings who once ruled Japan—and as feelings develop between Katie and Tomo, things begin to spiral out of control. The wrong people are starting to ask questions, and if they discover the truth, no one will be safe.
It’s said that the best stories are the ones that make you homesick for somewhere you’ve never been, and this is certainly true of Ink.
The best thing about this book is the setting. It’s richly detailed and full of life, built on passion as well as research. With the majority of successful YA being set in America or the UK, a change of scene to Japan makes all the difference in the world in helping Ink to stand out from the crowd. It’s a book that will of course appeal to those with a love for travel or real-life experience of Japan but it’s also a great introduction to a complex and extensive culture that may otherwise seem intimidating to the average young adult reader. Ink is peppered with subtle references to manga tradition – from the lingering looks the characters are desperately hoping will end in a kiss to mentions of the yakuza and sakura – and readers will soon find themselves deliriously immersed in the semi-fantasy world of this extraordinary tale.
For me, the premise was what really brought Ink to my attention. Beautiful drawings that come to life with mythical, highly dangerous consequences? Now that’s a concept worth reading about. Throw in some powerful and possibly malevolent Japanese gods, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic story.
Sadly, I didn’t find myself so enamoured with the main characters, Katie and Tomohiro.
Katie is an outsider, caught between grief and curiosity as she arrives in Japan, leaving the distant familiarity of America behind. She initially struggles – in fact, she downright refuses – to adapt to life in Japan, and there’s a part of her that wishes she’d been sent to Canada to stay with her grandparents instead. Fortunately, when it comes to being forced to think on your feet, accidentally eavesdropping on the break-up of a mysterious hot guy and noticing one of his sketches start to move will definitely do the trick.
I understand that Katie”s not feeling quite like her normal self through most of the book but some of her actions and thoughts were just plain hard to believe – and this is in a novel where ink drawings have the ability to instil terror and cause destruction wherever they go. I understand, too, that she’s in the middle of something much bigger than she ever could have imagined (and all with the sullen, defensive and generally grumpy Tomohiro at her side) but she’s not subjected to a great deal of character growth and I just couldn’t find many reasons to like her.
At least Tomohiro is slightly more complex. Or is he? There are several moments where it seems he’s in danger of falling into cliché territory, and he only just manages to redeem himself in the latter half of the novel. The secondary characters, too, fail to impress, with place-holder personalities and little vivacity.
And as a reader who was looking forward to something along the lines of an urban fantasy, I have to say I was disappointed by the direction the book ultimately went in. I wanted to be on tenterhooks right to the very end (this is the first book in a planned series) but once gangs and the pseudo-mafia became involved, I started to lose interest. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of entertaining action involved, but I just felt that this book had a lot more potential than was being taken advantage of.
This book delivers beautiful on setting, research and premise – from insights into typical Japanese kendo classes and ramen dates to the slightly more unusual instances of kami gods wreaking havoc and drawings coming to life. Unfortunately, Ink is let down by its characters and for me, it just didn’t live up to expectations.
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