Friday, January 24, 2014

Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun

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.


Released: June 21st 2013    Pages: 326
Publisher: Harlequin Teen    Source: Library

First Look: ****This sounded interesting because, while I know next to nothing about Japanese mythology, it's not something I've ever really read about before.  Also, I love the idea of drawings coming to life--like Inkheart, except with pictures. 

Setting: ***** 
The setting itself was interesting, but it was handled poorly.  Japanese terms were thrown into the narration or dialogue with little or no explanation.  Some of these terms or phrases were included in a glossary at the back (these came up as links on the e-book version that I read, which I could click to bring me right to the glossary).  This was annoying and unnecessary.  Flipping back and forth to a glossary, whether you're on an e-reader or a physical copy, is a pain.  There's no reason to force your readers to do this when it isn't hard to define the phrase in the narration itself.  If nothing else, it distracted from the story.

The Japanese setting was certainly different, since it's not something you read about much in YA fiction.  It seemed authentic enough to me, but take that with a grain of salt, since I'm a Midwestern girl who has never been to Japan and has no connection with Japanese culture. 

Characters: ***** 
Katie frustrated me.  It's one thing to have a character who makes a wrong decision--in fact, every strong character needs to make some wrong decisions in order to have a compelling story.  Maybe it'll make me dislike the character, but at least the character will be three-dimensional.  There's a difference, though, between characters who make wrong decisions and characters who make decisions that are just plain stupid.  Kate falls into the latter category.  First of all, she's whiny.  She spends the first third of the book complaining about how she doesn't fit in to Japanese culture, how she doesn't speak the language well, and how she doesn't understand the customs.  I can't feel any sympathy for her because, initially, she doesn't even try.  She doesn't try to improve her language skills and refuses to get involved in activities that will immerse her in the culture.  I'll give her some credit for eventually trying.

Apart from that, though, she demonstrates a lack of common sense that I found obnoxious and baffling.  There's obviously something off about Tomohiro from the beginning.  Katie states over and over that he's scary, and that hanging out with him is unsafe.  And she still follows--no, stalks--him.  But since she's a heroine in a YA book, of course she's going to stalk the scary guy (who just so happens to be gorgeous), who is (surprise!) actually nice, if a bit moody.  They proceed to fall in love.  Please, give me a break.  One, it's absurd and disturbing that Katie thinks you can have any sort of healthy relationship with a person described as "dangerous".  Two, insta-love is always a no.  Three, why is Tomo so okay with Katie stalking him?

Tomo was a more interesting character than Katie.  He was moody, but his powers and their effect on him was compelling.  I wanted to read more of his struggle with his powers and less of Katie's romantic angst.  This book would've been so much more interesting from Tomo's point of view, or even as a dual POV with him and Jun.

Plot: ***** 
The first half of this book bored me.  I didn't care about Katie's struggle to "fit in".  It wasn't much more interesting reading about her following Tomo around.  There was too much romantic angst and too little plot.

The second half got more interesting, especially once the Japanese Mafia got involved.  Then this book finally started on the important things, like the implications of Tomo's ability, and Katie's search to find answers about her effect on his ability.  The romance aspect of the plot didn't take as much of a backseat as I would've liked, even though it wasn't the most important aspect.  Still, the second half was an improvement.

Katie's decision at the very end annoyed me.  If nothing else, does she not realize how much plane tickets cost?  She wasted all that money, and for what?  So she could stay with Tomo, even though she just got kidnapped and almost killed because of him.  Besides, the decision was incredibly predictable.

Uniqueness: ***** Tomo's powers and those aspects of the book were unique, but it was too bogged down by the overused new-girl-new-school and romance-with-dangerous-brooding-guy clichés.

Writing: ***** The writing wasn't necessarily bad, but there wasn't anything compelling about it either. It had a few nice metaphors, but other than that, nothing stood out.  I remember being annoyed during the first few chapters at how stereotypical and forced Katie's voice sounded, but either that faded or I learned to ignore it.

I've mentioned this already, but it was seriously annoying to have to keep going back and forth to the glossary to understand the random Japanese phrases thrown into the dialogue.  It wasn't that hard for me, since I read it on a Kindle app which allowed me to click on links, but it still disoriented me, and I saw no reason for it.

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Not-so-great:
This book made me want Japanese food.  Not that I don't always want Asian food anyways.

Overall:
This is a book with an interesting and unique premise.  However, the interesting parts of the story were overshadowed by a cliché and overbearing romance.  Katie was a frustrating and irresponsible protagonist who made dumb decisions of a regular basis.  It took too long for the plot to get interesting.  In short, this book would've been so much better if the romance had moved out of the way of the actual story.

Similar Books:  It's about a girl living in a new city and falling in love with a guy with powers like Invisiblity.  It also reminds me of Auracle, Unearthly, and even Shiver.

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