Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One of my most awaited releases of 2013!!!! Please bear with me as I hyperventilate here. Seriously, I've been keeling in pain just to read this. So without further ado, here's my review of Ink by the ultrakind and super awesome, Amanda Sun!

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)
Title: Ink (Paper Gods #1)
Author: Amanda Sun
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date of Publication: June 25, 2013

I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

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.


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

OH GAH, JUST HOLD STILL FOR A SECOND WHILE I TRY TO COMPOSE MYSELF. I will be capable of writing this review. I will. *chants repeatedly* I will try not be over the moon, stars bulging out of my eyes. I will be completely objective (in my dreams) or at least I will try to be. I will try to be coherent. The operative word in all of these being TRY. But try as hard as I might, I don't think that's even possible because Ink rendered me completely speechless. I couldn't even form words. I just squealed and screamed (muffled with my bitten shirt, of course) and kicked my pillows and blankets all around me and rolled in my bed from all the feelings until 4AM in the morning while reading it. I am thus apologizing in advance for excessive fangirling or abuse of exclamation marks.

I would like to thank Amanda Sun for sending me a NetGalley invite for an egalley of Ink! I owe you lots of Pocky and oolong tea and bentou boxes! Thank you to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley too. As always, I will be nothing if not honest with this review. Let's get down to this Yakuza business!

After Katie's mom died, she was shipped out to Shizuoka, Japan to her Aunt Diane instead of Deep River, Ontario, Canada with her grandmother and grandfather. Plucked out of New York into a different continent, with only crammed Japanese lessons to go with, Katie hugely sticks out in Japan as a gaijin, a non-Japanese or a foreigner. Her aunt enrolls her in a normal Japanese school and she is left to master Japanese or risk failing her classes. She gains two friends, Yuki and Tanaka. Katie sticks out like a sore thumb in her school and now that she has just witnessed the break-up of the school year, she's now in Yuu Tomohiro's piss-off radar. Not only that but she swears she saw the girl in his drawing move. Caught up in her curiosity and okay, fine, his looks too, she follows him and discovers that his drawings move and somehow, she makes it worse as he loses control when she's there. He tries to push her away but that only fuels her drive to get to know who's the real Yuu. Is it the aloof, dangerous and cruel jerk he is at school or the one who grins and laughs and beats up guys for a girl being harassed on the streets? Now, they're forced to run and stay away from people who might use them. But from who are they actually running away and running towards?

Full disclaimer here: I am in love with anything Japan. When I started blogging back in 2008, it was because of Japanese actors, movies, dramas and music. I breathed Japan then. I knew the age, birthday, height, full filmography and any absurd information about the hottest and most popular Japanese actors. I had folders and folders of photoshoot pictures, drives and drives of Japanese dramas and I exclusively listened to Jpop and Jrock. I can still sing those songs from memory. While I still am a casual watcher of Japanese dramas and movies, I kind of moved on with my obsession of Japanese entertainment. But my love for it always and forever be there.

With that, I love how Amanda Sun has strove to make this novel as authentic as she can. The unique culture of the Japanese was accurately shown in Ink. It was like watching a jdrama, in actuality. I can see the sakura blossoms, the different uniforms of the different schools, the genkan, the kendo team, the train stations, the temples, everything. I haven't gone to Japan YET but from what I've seen in all those dramas and movies I watched, Ink is jdrama on paper. With that, I truly appreciated how Amanda Sun has infused Japan to Ink that it feels real and alive. I know some readers were put off by this, especially those who weren't as familiar with Japanese culture. They say there were too many Japanese phrases and words. In my opinion and in my defense for Amanda, not everything has a translation into English. I can name Filipino words that still baffle me and my professors-who-have-their-PhD's that don't have any translation to English. We have different words for the rice that you plant, the rice that you eat, cold rice, sticky rice and all parts of the rice plant and types of rice. Because rice plays a large part in our culture. The same is with Japanese. Asian culture is really different from American/English culture and so, not everything can be translated. Moreover, like I said, it gives that authentic feel. So for me, I truly adore how Amanda made Ink as Japanese as possible.

Katie is such a curious person that she ends up stalking Tomo. As in, she literally follows him everywhere. While some found her being a stalker totally weird and off-putting, I didn't mind as much. Actually, I didn't mind Katie as much. I like her alright, but I didn't really love her to the ends of the earth as a character. Maybe because sometimes I just want to smack her for stalking but at times I wanna hug her for actually stalking Tomo. Yes, I am an indecisive person. Maybe because she accepted how Tomo's drawings move all too fast for my taste? I'm not entirely sure but I did enjoy knowing her as a character and her voice as a narrator.

So if the main character didn't impress you, why the heck should I still read Ink? It's because of Tomo (among other reasons I will explain later). Tomo is the amalgamation of all my Japanese crushes. Tall! Lanky! Awesome cook! Japanese! CAPTAIN OF THE KENDO TEAM! Does calligraphy. DRAWS. I just about fainted. Yes, he acts like he doesn't care but oh, do he care. He puts everyone's welfare before himself and he's just such a martyr. I hate noble idiots and noble idiocy as plot fodder (I'm leaving you even though it hurts me because that's what's best for you although we're perfect for each other and we're the OTP in this story) but Tomo's noble idiocy went by really fast and it just made me love him more. Another thing I like about him is that he sticks to his principles and morals and the people he love. He's always there for Katie and for his friend. Tomo is so perfectly imperfect. I love everything about him. (He's also older than Katie and hey, don't look at me like I'm the only one who wants an older guy! Not my fault I have a little brother, okay?)

There is also another character Jun but the less you know about him, the better. I kind of figured out Jun's role in the novel but I didn't exactly predict how large his role was. If you think you know the story or what's gonna happen in Ink just from the blurb, you're wrong. I'm usually perceptive to plot points and twists but I did not expect THAT turn. I love you Amanda for it!

Aside from Tomo and how totally Japan Ink is, I was also a fan of the mythology. The premise of the novel and its imminent use of Japanese mythology and melding it into what will best serve the story gave me such a rush. It was well-researched (as expected of Amanda who loves Japan so much) and easy to follow because Amanda reveals things one at a time in a pace completely understandable yet gripping. Additionally, the action was a blast! Admittedly, the novel was kind of slow at the beginning. You won't really feel it because stuff were happening but from around 66% of the novel (I really checked), the action did not stop. There was an event happening which led to the next bigger event which led to the next shocking event and so on. The last 40% of the novel was fast-paced, compelling and engaging. When you put that into perspective, the first half of the novel feels slow but if ever you feel that while reading Ink, just plow through it. It will gradually up its stakes and then you won't be able to stop reading. I stayed up until 4AM for this, dudes!

Sure, Ink is not without flaws. A lot of times, the characters served as exposition fairies and they were quite obvious at that. I sometimes think "why would you say that" and "saying that isn't organic to your character or your role in this story" but it sure moved the plot forward so hey, not that I'm complaining! Some people took issue with the writing. While the writing wasn't as beautiful as Delirium or Wild Awake, I found it flowing nicely. The book could have been edited a bit though, say lessening the use of the word "bangs" and maybe replacing some with "fringe" or any other synonyms. I don't think I would have noticed that but I read a review somewhere and so whenever I encounter the word "bangs" in Ink, I say it aloud. But aside from that, the writing wasn't stilted and was a page-turner.

Like Tomo, Ink is perfectly imperfect but that's why I love it too. Sometimes, when you see flaws in a book, you redact a star from the rating. But with Ink, it didn't reduce its awesomeness. The mythology holding the book, the characters, the action, THAT ENDING, THAT COVER, the drawings, everything was just so amazing that no matter how many not-so-good reviews I read and how many potential flaws I find or realize later on, it cannot change the fact that I honest-to-goodness loved this book. That's a feat in itself, to make me overlook everything because I just loved this book. With a fresh story world and mythology set in Japan, Ink is exciting and swoonworthy and it will make you crazy in the best way with its plot twists and its ending. I cannot wait for the sequel. Go read/get/buy Ink now, no excuses, or I will slice you in half with my ink-sword!

About Amanda Sun

I’m a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. I was born in Deep River, Canada, a very small town without traffic lights or buses, and where stranger safety is comprised of what to do if you see a bear—or skunk. I started reading fantasy novels at 4 and writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Hopefully my work’s improved since then.
In university I took English, Linguistics, and Asian History, before settling into Archaeology, because I loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. Of course, I didn’t actually become an archaeologist—I have an intense fear of spiders. I prefer unearthing fascinating stories in the safety of my living room.
The Paper Gods is inspired by my time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan. That and watching far too many J-Dramas. I currently live in Toronto with my husband and daughter. When I’m not writing, I’m devouring YA books, knitting nerdy things like Companion Cubes and Triforce mitts, and making elaborate cosplays for anime cons.


  1. Haha! I loved your review!! "Like Tomo, Ink is perfectly imperfect but that's why I love it too. Sometimes, when you see flaws in a book, you redact a star from the rating. But with Ink, it didn't reduce its awesomeness. The mythology holding the book, the characters, the action, THAT ENDING, THAT COVER, the drawings, everything was just so amazing that no matter how many not-so-good reviews I read and how many potential flaws I find or realize later on, it cannot change the fact that I honest-to-goodness loved this book. " - you said it right, Dianne! <3 <3 <3 I highly encourage every reader to try this!

    1. And thank you for encouraging me to read it too! <3 Thanks for dropping by, Precious!


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