Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

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InkInk by Amanda Sun (Harlequin Teen, 2013)

 

Blurb: 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.

 

I was really looking forward to reading this book: the cover is gorgeous, and the premise is fantastic: American girl moves to Japan, meets Japanese boy whose drawings come to life. Add some romance and the Yakuza to the mix, and you’ve got Ink.

The author has spent time in Japan as an exchange student, and it shows. Katie’s confusion and frustration as she tries to adapt to a new culture are very well portrayed, as is her excitement when she starts getting the little things right. The descriptions of Japan are the book’s best feature; reading about the natural beauty, the food, and daily life prompted me to add Japan to my list of places to visit. Because it’s presented through Katie’s eyes, there’s no sense of info dump; Katie’s discovery of Japan is perfectly presented.

Unfortunately, in emphasizing the setting, the author neglects other vital aspects of the story, namely the plot and the other characters. The central story is very slow to develop and full of clichés, and that’s due primarily to the weak characterization. We never really get to know any of the secondary characters at all; rather than being multi-dimensional beings, they’re clichéd means to an end. We’re told Katie’s best friends and her aunt are instrumental in helping her deal with her mother’s death and her move to Japan, yet we don’t see much in the way of interaction with them, let alone understand why they mean so much to Katie. Instead, she meets Tomohiro, and boom, she’s in love, and there’s kind of a love triangle, and there’s a frenemy, and from that point forward those are the only four characters who seem to get any attention. The action picked up significantly in the last third of the book, as the implications of Tomohiro’s skills became clear. There’s a strong supernatural element to this story and it’s well set up for an ongoing series.

I did have some other nitpicky issues with the story: Would an American girl who can’t read the buttons on a Japanese washing machine really be able to determine in a few seconds that a rapid-fire conversation was in Korean? Katie’s aunt bought her a mobile phone for emergencies, then left Katie alone for a week while she went to another city, so why in the world does Katie’s cell phone not have her aunt’s number in its list of contacts? Most of the dialogue is in English, but some is in Japanese. Because of this, it’s difficult to tell in which language conversations are taking place. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does, and the way it’s presented can be confusing. None of these are significant, but they’re the kind of missteps that pull me out of the story.

As I mentioned earlier, the cover is gorgeous. I read an electronic version, and it immediately became clear that this is a book that should be read in physical form. The drawings that appear throughout are beautifully rendered, and I’m pretty sure that some of them are clever animations when you flip through the pages. It’s a detail that fits in well with the story and adds to the overall impression.

 

This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 3 stars

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