I received this book for review consideration from the publisher via Netgalley. For more about my review policies, please see my full disclosure page.
After Katie's mom dies, she has to move to Japan to live with her aunt. In the midst of dealing with a new culture, new school, finding new friends and learning a new language, Katie meets the mysterious Tomohiro, a guy with awesome hair and a serious personality disorder. One second he's super-nice, then the next he's a broody jerk. Rumors swirl through the school that Tomohiro got a girl pregnant while dating someone else, almost killed his best friend, and is involved in the Yakuza. BECAUSE EVERY JAPANESE PERSON IS INVOLVED IN THE YAKUZA, apparently. Katie's friend, Yuki, warns her that Tomohiro is dangerous and she should stay away from him, not realizing that's American for, "Totally hit that, girlfriend!" But Tanaka, who's known Tomohiro since childhood, thinks he's just a misunderstood painter. A DANGEROUS ARTIST, YOU GUUUUUUUYS. Will these two crazy kids get together?
Something you should know about me is that I am a total sucker for stories set in Japan. That's why Tokyo Drift is my favorite F&F movie, and Ice Blue is my favorite Anne Stuart novel. And that's why I requested Ink even though I've been feeling burned out on YA for a while (the whining, the love triangles... sigh). I have to say, as far as the setting goes, Ink definitely delivers. You can tell Amanda Sun has lived in Japan and knows her stuff. Katie's assimilation into the culture was a little too smooth and precipitous, but I liked how Sun showed it was happening through Katie's increased use of Japanese words (there's a dictionary of Japanese phrases in the back in case you can't figure it out through context) and how she adopted different mannerisms and hobbies to fit in. That was definitely the strongest part of the novel.
Ink is basically like Twilight (in case you were thinking, "Hey, this sounds kind of like Twilight!"). Dangerous guy who's not quite human and has to keep the girl he loves at a distance, etc. etc. But it's a very inventive twist on the Twilight plot. The "living ink" element went in a direction I totally wasn't expecting. Even the Yakuza part of the story wasn't too bad, although, really. Allllllways with the Yakuza.
And I have to admit that Tomohiro was a major hottie, what with his mad kendo skillz and painting and kick-ass hair, even if he was super-confusing and high maintenance. He laughed when any normal person would be pissed off and got angry when it seemed like there was nothing setting him off. I found myself thinking being around him had to be EXHAUSTING. But that kind of dual personality characteristic seems typical for animé and manga characters, so I just went with it.
Basically, if you love Japan or manga you probably-definitely want to read Ink. Parts of the story go on for way too long, and I am kind of annoyed it's the first of a series because the story does NOT support that; but judging the book as a standalone it's enjoyable and a bit like an animé in novel form. I actually found it pretty compelling. And hooray for books set in Japan!
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