|My photo of Ryoan-ji|
Canadian author Amanda Sun merged her experience as an exchange student in Osaka with Japanese mythology to create her debut novel, Ink (June 2013). After her mom dies, sixteen-year-old Katie Greene is sent to live with her English teacher aunt in Shizuoka. As the only foreign student (presumably), she catches the eye of Tomohiro, the star of the school's kendo team. Tomo is also a skilled artist, but he hides his talent. His drawings have a bad habit of leaping off the page and attacking bystanders. One nearly killed his best friend. Yakuza gangsters and the kami paper gods vie for his allegiance. Katie fights to protect Tomo, but her presence only makes his power harder to control. Their star-crossed romance is Twilight remixed with Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Although the Japanese part of the story was well developed, the American backstory was not. Katie's closest relatives are conveniently missing: her dad vanished (why?), her mom died recently and her grandfather is fighting cancer. Her near-stranger aunt in Japan is the only well developed adult character. There is no mention of the friends Katie left behind or of her past life in NYC beyond ballet. Obviously she would miss her mom, but teens are mostly focused on their peers. It would have been extra-traumatic leaving them behind. The only friends mentioned are new ones and, like her facility with the difficult language, seem too easily acquired.
We know nothing about Katie's romantic past either. Perhaps she doesn't have one. Katie is a bit immature, behaves awkwardly and doesn't know how to flirt so why do the two hottest guys fall for her? This question is semi-answered toward the end, and hopefully her background will be fleshed out later in The Paper Gods trilogy. The page-turner ending of Ink leaves the reader eager for more.
"Clouds of shimmering dust encircled him, wisps of inky swirls that glinted in the sunlight. They curled in slow motion, spreading around him like waves of fireflies."
|The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto, Japan|