I made it half way across the courtyard before I realised I was still wearing my school slippers. No lie. I had to turn around and slink all the way back to the genkan, the stiff led laughs from my classmates trailing me as I mustered what slippered dignity I could.
God, way to scream foreigner. You’d think after a couple of weeks I’d have the routine down, but no. I’d gone into that mode again, the one where I forgot everything for a minute and walked dazed through the sounds of the Japanese being spoken around me, not fully comprehending that it wasn’t English, that I was on the other side of the world. That mum was...
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Published by MIRA Ink in July 2013
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. 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.
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Reviewed by Caroline Hodges
There’s a lot to like in this debut novel from Amanda Sun. As YA novels go, it’s as far from the typical clichés, that sometimes plague the genre, as possible. Set in Japan, Ink absorbs the reader in the culture – both past and present. It’s clearly well researched and for those that are interested in Japan, it’s appears to be an accurate representation of life as a student in the country, albeit from a ‘gaijin’ point of view.
Katie is learning to find her way in this strange place, so unlike her native US, whilst also dealing with the recent death of her mum. She’s doing well, has made friends, joined some school clubs (tea ceremony anyone?) and is slowly getting used to changing her shoes for slippers when in buildings. When she meets Tomohiro Yu, the first impression is far from good; a guy who, though star of the school kendo team, also appears to be the classic bad boy – covered in scars and callously dumping his girlfriend.
Inevitably the story entwines these two, but the lack of “instantaneous love” is refreshing and strangely suited to a novel set in Japan where establishing relationships close enough for touching takes time. As the story unfolds, Katie unearths Tomo’s inner self and finds someone as broken as she is.
But this isn’t just a love story. Tomohiro has a strange power over ink, his drawings coming to life and this power is in high demand by fellow ink-workers and the yakuza alike. Most of the action, as you might expect in a trilogy, is towards the end but it’s pretty good stuff once you get there.
Aside from the growing romance between Katie and Tomohiro there’s some nicely detailed relationships, such as that between Katie and the aunt that she’s now living with in Japan – sufficiently awkward at first then blossoming. I also liked the complex character of Tomohiro’s friend Ishikawa.
Though it has plenty of good points, I wasn’t blown away by the novel and I think I would have liked to learn in this book a bit more about why (and how on earth!) an American could have such an affect on Tomo’s powers, but I guess as a trilogy, that will likely be addressed later on. However, I think there’s more than enough in Ink to have you anticipating the next instalment.