Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is 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.
Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.
Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
If you have the slightest interest in Japanese culture, you must read Ink. If you don't have any particular interest in Japan, but like reading a book that evokes a strong sense of place, you must read Ink. Ink is a solid albeit formulaic paranormal romance with an outstanding setting.
Katie is stuck in Japan against her will after her mother's death. Lucky for her, it's only supposed to be temporary until her grandfather's health improves. Katie is trying to bide out her time, but wouldn't you know, romance and adventure strike.
It took me awhile to warm up to Katie. She is slow to adapt to Japan, to try new foods, or culture. Slow from my perspective at least. I'd be diving in head first to try everything - but I'm older, already have exposure to Japanese culture, and haven't just lost a parent. So in the end, Katie's blase attitude is understandable and realistic.
Katie's relationship with Tomohiro is nothing new. Initial antagonism gives way to astonishment that there's a paranormal link which brings out more antagonism which pretty quickly turns into undying love. It's a formula that works well. There's nothing objectionable, but that's not why I enjoyed the novel.
Amanda came up with a fabulous paranormal element. Traditional Japanese gods. Drawings coming to life in powerful, bloody, violent ways. It reminded me very vaguely of the manga series Death Note. I mentioned that to Amanda when I was at BEA and she said it was an inspiration for the series. The kami and the art element are like nothing you've read before and I was turning the pages to see how the mythological world was going to develop.
The plot itself is a thrilling battle of art and judo. It feels very Japanese. The yakuza, the Japanese mafia, are another element. All in all, I thought the plot veered into melodrama and stretched the bounds of realism (well, leaving aside the gods and art coming to life part) too far for my taste. But it was still fun.
What Amanda did wonderfully was capture Japan. I've never lived in Japan, but my husband has lived there. I've visited and my husband has steeped himself in Japanese culture for years. As far as I can tell, Ink captures the atmosphere of Japan perfectly. The food, school, mannerisms. Unique holidays like the annual hana-mi (when everyone has picnics under the cherry blossom trees). The subtle and not-so-subtle ways that Japanese teenagers interact differently than western teens. It's like traveling to another world. I've only seen Japan depicted in YA a few times, and Ink is by far the best depiction. I loved it.
I definitely recommend Ink for anyone who loves exploring different parts of the world. While it stays close to the standard paranormal romance trope plot wise, the paranormal element is unique and the setting is outstanding (I can't emphasize that part enough).
Rating: 3.5 / 5
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