Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun
Published June 25th, 2013 by 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.
*An ARC was provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review*
Ink was a book I really wanted to like. The creative premise & Japanese setting were both reason enough for me to want to check it out but the promise of a fresh new fantasy twist involving ink - drawings coming to life? Well I just had to get me some of that! Unfortunately, this was one of those instances where the proposed 'love-story' was given top-billing and it was a little too obsessive and insta-lovey for my liking.
Ink tells the story of Katie, following the death of her mother. Since Katie has never known her father, she was supposed to be moving in with her grand-parents in Canada but since her grand-father is ill, she gets sent off to live with her aunt in Japan. As she is thrown into a completely different world, she is forced to adapt: she must learn the language and adopt the culture and customs of her new home, especially if she wants to survive high school. Before long, Katie develops an intense attraction to the resident bad-boy, Tomohiro - against her own better judgement. There are a lot of weird rumors about Tomohiro; most of them just make him seem like a jerk but others are downright creepy. As Katie spends more time with Tomo, it becomes clear that there his more to him than meets the eye - namely, the fact that he is somehow connected to the Kami, ancient mythical Japanese beings that had power over ink: the ability to make drawings come to life. What's worse is that being around Katie makes Tomo's gift even harder to control and it soon becomes clear that they are both flirting with disaster, in more ways than one.
I'm going to start off by listing the aspects of Ink that I enjoyed, because honestly these are the things that kept me reading until the very end. The setting was probably the biggest plus for me here, I think Japanese culture is beautiful and I was delighted by the lovely descriptions of scenery that author Amanda Sun wove into the story - the cherry blossoms in bloom especially stick out as vivid in my mind and I almost felt like I was walking around in the pink, fragrant gardens myself. Amanda Sun spent time in Japan personally and it shows in how she describes everything from the people, to the places... even the food. I felt fully emerged in the experience right along with the MC Katie.
Ink also gets points for featuring a truly unique mythology and magical powers. The idea of certain people being gifted with the ability to make drawings move of their own accord and quite literally come alive after being created is really brilliant. I mean, it's a concept I've never read about before, certainly not in this kind of context and I was impressed by how both the mythology and the setting seemed to mesh together so well, I could almost believe that there are forces like this at work in Japan right now, and they're just keeping it a secret from the rest of us... *dun, dun, DUN*
Sadly though, that's where my enjoyment ended. Ink's main focus lays on the romance and it is of the 'insta-love' variety. Well, no that's not entirely true. What Katie feels for Tomohiro is more like 'insta-obsession' of the stalker-ish variety. After one horrible encounter which involves her seeing him in the worst possible light imaginable, Katie instantly becomes fixated on Tomo. She tries to convince herself it's because she knows he's hiding something, but it's abundantly clear she's got the hots for him. She stop at nothing to get his attention and that usually results in cringe-worthy situations that had me either squirming or rolling my eyes. And the more she spends time with him the worse it gets: she sees him on a bike and then begs her aunt to get her a bike! She sees him playing kendo for the school team so she immediately joins the team herself! And it didn't stop there, as the story progresses she continues to make silly, impulsive decisions with no regard for anything or anyone but Tomo. Their 'love' is constantly front and center and I found myself wishing this was one of those times where the romance should have been skipped altogether because it just didn't work for me the way it was obviously intended to.
Ink also randomly reminded me of Twilight quite a few times throughout - like certain big romantic moments in familiar settings that seemed overly familiar to me. Also, the sort of dynamic between Tomo and Katie, him being the dangerous boy who wants the girl but knows he's dangerous, so for her safety he tries to push her away by saying stuff like: ''you should stay away from me'' or ''I'm a monster''...which of course, makes her want him even more. But where Twilight (specifically the book) made me swoon & gave me the butterflies, Ink did not - it just annoyed me and left me cold. I was never invested in them as a couple. I was more interested in Tomo's side of the story simply because he had a story to tell but he never really made me swoon. It's not that he didn't sound attractive or desirable, it's just that him being with Katie turned me off. Katie, for her part, spent the entirety of her time thinking about Tomo so it was impossible for me to connect with her. She just didn't seem to develop as a character because hardly learn anything about her before she goes 100% Tomo, all. of. the. time.
The bottom line is, I think Ink would have worked a lot better for me if the love-story had taken a back-seat to the Japanese culture and the mythology of the Kami which were both very compelling. It would have also given Katie a chance to develop more as a character and maybe I would have connected with her more. As it stands, the romance was the main attraction here and that was the one part I had issues with, so it ended up overshadowing any of the things I actually was enjoying. I'd still recommend Ink to big fans of Japanese culture who are also fans of romances and who don't mind when their love-stories are on the obsessive side.