Author: Amanda Sun
Genre: Fantasy, Coming-of-Age,
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source: ARC gifted to me by a friend
Summary: 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.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – The heroine lacks some serious self-preservation skills, but it reminds me so much of the anime and manga I still love that I couldn’t help but like this novel.
I grew up on anime and manga and still love it dearly, so Ink went on my to-read as soon as someone brought it to my attention. It seems like just the sort of idea I might see while perusing manga, and it turned out to be just as entertaining too! When it comes to Japanese culture and mythology, Sun seems to know exactly what she’s doing–but considering my limited knowledge of Japan, I’d be easy to fool.
Katie has three standout traits: her utter lack of self-preservation (which reads as bravery in its weaker moments), her inability to lie well, and her baffling ability to be unable to see a creature’s face because she’s behind it and yet see that it has deep-set eyes. No mirrors involved. Guy is rude to you and you see his drawings moving around? The smart thing to do is run and hide, not stalk him around town and eventually befriend him. At first, her grief over her mother’s death sticks out too, but she gets over it quickly. I don’t exactly like her, but she’s not worth disliking either. She’s just there, really. Better than nothing!
Tomohiro is your average bad-boy anime/manga hero. He’s rough around the edges, has all sorts of rumors going around about him, and he’s gotten in more than a few fights. He tries to scare the heroine away, but she persists and he eventually shows her his softer, more vulnerable side because maybe he wants someone to get close to him. However, I never did forgive him for pointing out that he could see Katie’s underwear as she sat in a tree–and doing so with half the school around to hear.
Despite those issues, he and the book get major points for saying something more YA heroes need to get into their thick, curly-haired heads: “I can’t keep you in the dark and protect you at the same time” (ARC p. 156). Hallelujah! Someone gets it! ‘Course, he tries to push her into the dark to protect her anyway by being a butt trumpet, so how much he means it is up in the air.
Ink‘s strongest quality is its worldbuilding and how deeply you can feel the research the author did. How often the eleven-page glossary had to be used was a little ridiculous, but it helps when Katie translates the meaning of some Japanese phrases for readers. Not only does it help, it makes sense because she’s still struggling with learning the language. I called a semi-major identity twist early on, but there was only a small stretch toward the halfpoint of the novel where I found myself bored and drifting away. My desire to discover how Sun made the connection of ink and Japanese gods kept me going until the very end.
This novel may also be one of the most well-designed novels I’ve ever seen. Ross Siu provides interior sketches meant to represent Tomohiro’s own artwork, including a few birds, a dragon, and petals falling in the corners of about sixty pages. Flipping through the pages provides good old-fashioned hand-drawn animation! If I could get pictures of some of this stuff for you, I would. One star of my rating was earned by this beautiful, unique touch.
Perhaps I’m being a little kinder than I should, but providing me the Japanese-flavored entertainment I’ve been missing since my manga-reading dramatically decreased about a year and a half ago makes me feel generous. Besides, it may be flawed, but it’s not terrible by any means.