This review is from: Ink (The Paper Gods series, Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
When I first came across Amanda Sun's YA romance, Ink, I was blown away by the gorgeous cover, with its beautiful colours and unique look, and hoped that the synopsis would be just as attractive. It was.
Let's get straight to the point - a YA romance set in Japan is pretty much a dream come true for me. I've been obsessed with everything Japanese for as long as I can remember. I find the culture and etiquette incredibly fascinating, and I feel that not enough Western books try to divulge into Japanese culture. Amanda Sun - an author after my own heart - lived in Osaka on exchange when she was at high school. Because of this, she began to develop an interest in not only Japanese culture, but the mythology of the country too. It makes sense, then, that she went on to write a novel that embraces the YA adult genre as well as Japanese mythology and culture - and I feel that the combination of the two worked very well. Sun's love for the culture shines through in her novel, making the story one which is instantly captivating.
Before I discuss the characters and the plot, I'd like to look a little at the featuring of Japanese life in Ink. I felt that Sun includes just the right amount of Japanese language, etiquette and mythology in her novel. It provides an introduction to, and slight insight, into the culture without being too overbearing. The mythology of the Kami was incredibly interesting to learn about, and was used wonderfully within the novel. There's also a very helpful glossary of the Japanese terms at the back of the book, which is not entirely necessary, as the language is generally used in context, but is a lovely addition for those who are curious about the language. I enjoyed how Katie - the protagonist - slowly grows into the culture and begins to understand it more, and that the reader is able to do so right along with her.
Katie is a 16 year old girl, thrown into a completely different culture after a family tragedy. She finds it difficult to find her place in the world around her - an experience often found in YA literature, but emphasised in Ink by the contrasts between Katie and her surroundings. Her culture shock is emphasised further when she begins to feel that she's losing her mind after witnessing several strange, supernatural events at the hands of fellow schoolmate, Yuu Tomohiro - and that's when both the romance and the action of the story truly begin.
Tomohiro is the mysterious bad-boy of the school. At the very beginning of the novel, Katie witnesses him cruelly break up with his then girlfriend, Myu, and witnesses one of his many drawings apparently move on the page. It is the strange, double-sided personality that she sees in him during this break-up, as well as the possibility that his drawing did actually move, that results in Katie becoming completely fascinated by him. Now, this is where I have noticed that several people have been put off whilst reading the novel - this notion of "insta-love". Although, personally, I am not generally a fan of it myself in novels, Ink was an exception, for me. I couldn't help but think of the insta-love and some what obsessive nature of romance in shoujo manga, and relate it to the blossoming love between Katie and Tomo. I found that, in doing so, the insta-love aspect became far more bearable.
Aside from the extreme initial attraction, I found that the relationship between Katie and Tomo developed in a beautiful manner. I thought it was sweet and genuine - from the emotional connection, to the friendship, to the small physical aspects. I really rooted for them both the whole way through. Katie is a wonderful protagonist, and I found it very easy to connect with her. She's strong and determined and real, and I love that in a character. Tomo is probably my dream boy - with the exception of all of (or at least so much of) the danger - but let's not go too far into that... Let's just say that he is a wonderfully thought out character; deep and tortured, yet incredibly kind and loving towards those he cares about.
I also found the action in the novel very enjoyable. I loved the twists and turns and the little clues here and there. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but there's definitely a good few surprises in there. The only problem with the action in this novel, for me, was the cliffhanger at the end. Although I understand why authors include them, I hate, hate, hate cliffhangers - so personally, I was a little disappointed with that.
As a final (positive) point, I found Amanda Sun's writing style to be very enjoyable, and rather captivating. She creates a completely immersive world, and really provides the reader with a wonderful insight into a culture outside of their own. Not for one moment was I bored during this novel. Sun simultaneously keeps you on your toes and develops wonderful, realistic and relatable characters, whilst beautifully illustrating the world that surrounds them.
All in all, I loved this book as much as I hoped it would, and am really looking forward to more from Amanda Sun. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a refreshing YA fantasy novel, as well as to those with in interest in Japanese culture.