Katie Greene is out of place. She ought to be in New York, or at a push Canada. Shizuoka, Japan, was never meant to be her home. But after her mum’s death that is where she has ended up, living with her aunt Diane. Everything about the place is strange and it’s hard coping with the loss of her mum and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.
Her new school brings its own challenges: after-school clubs and cram schools, cleaning the toilets, indoor slippers and outdoor shoes. It’s her struggle with footwear etiquette that alters her experience, turning it from tough to mind-boggling. She gets in the middle of a messy break-up and catches the attention of school bad boy Yuu Tomohiro. He’s got issues of his own.
Katie is fairly sure she saw one of Tomohiro’s drawings move, but that couldn’t possibly be right. Things get weirder when one of her doodles seems to come to life until her pen inexplicably shatters sending ink spilling everywhere. Is it a coincidence that Tomohiro was standing in the classroom doorway at just that moment? They are drawn together despite their friends’ attempts to keep them apart and their own tendency to push each other away. There is something powerful and ancient calling one to the other.
I thought Ink had some real strengths. Katie’s problems learning to fit in were nicely done, and I could relate to her there easily. Finding yourself thrown into a culture that is so different to your own must be incredibly daunting. She doesn’t even have the familiarity of the same script, and learning to write Japanese characters is hard. I liked how she copes and tries to fit in, trying new foods and hobbies. She also makes some lovely friends who help her a great deal. I also liked how resilient Katie is; she doesn’t lack guts and for that I salute her!
There is a bit of a dreaded love triangle going on, but with just enough ambiguity of motive on the part of the other guy that I’ll say no more about it. The supernatural element is intriguing and as this is part of a series remains rather mysterious. There’s also some heavy gang-related stuff, which becomes more central to the story later in the book. Tomohiro’s best friend is involved with people best avoided. This part of the story is probably my least favourite, because although it is pivotal I just didn’t quite believe in it. It will be interesting to see where it goes in the next book.
I enjoyed Ink, with a couple of small reservations. As I was reading it did feel a bit too long somehow, but I loved the setting and the scenes where Tomohiro and Katie share a secret place. The illustrations throughout the book are lovely and give a little extra flavour too.
My thanks to the publisher for letting me read Ink as an eARC via NetGalley. The book is available now.