ARC Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Posted May 23, 2013 by Debby in Reviews / 24 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: Ink by Amanda SunInk by Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods #1
Published by Harlequin TEEN on June 25th, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 377
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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.

2 Stars

It is with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this review. You see, Ink was my most highly anticipated debut. In fact, it was one of my most highly anticipated 2013 releases. A book, set in Japan, about a fantasy world where ink drawings come to life? That sounded like everything I could ever want and more. And yet, it turned out to be something totally not for me. And despite how high my expectations were, it would have been no different if I had absolutely no idea what this book was about beforehand.

Let me start by saying that this book is stunning, design-wise. Not only does it have that beautiful cover, but given that it’s a story about ink drawings coming to life, there are illustrations within the book and flip-book animations as well. The chapter headings are also stunning. All in all, it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read – the design is truly a work of art.

Two of the best things about this novel are the setting and Amanda Sun’s writing. She showed a deep understanding of the Japanese culture, and descriptions of the setting truly painted a beautiful picture. I felt like I was there, even though I’ve never been to Japan before. Her writing is beautiful and easily digestible. After reading so many debuts this year, I can only say the same for about two other books.  I wouldn’t have expected this to be a debut. So I’m excited to read more of her work.

But… perhaps not in this series.

Let’s start with the characters. Katie, the main character, is, to me, rather unlikable. She is impulsive and extremely love sick. But we’ll get to that second one in a bit. Her impulsiveness just caused her to make all the wrong choices. Aside from those two personality traits, she fell flat. She lacked character depth and considering her back-story of being thrust into a vastly different culture and just having gone through the death of her mother, I did not expect that. Tomohiro is… well, picture your basic drool-worthy anime character. Then minus some of the drool, because he also lacked the kind of depth that would really make him attractive.

The concept was still wonderfully unique and relatively well-executed. Amanda Sun’s fantasy world had a ton of potential, which made for an intriguing plot. However, I felt like it was over before it began – and for 377 pages, that’s a weird thing to say. I felt like the plot centered way too much on the romance. When the action scenes arrived, they were over just like that. The fantasy world was still left largely unexplored. And at the end, I felt extremely cheated. I didn’t feel like I ever got to a climax, though it may have also been due to the fact that around 50 pages at the end of the book consist of the glossary, acknowledgements, interview, discussion questions, preview of the next book. The ending was completely unexpected, because I thought I had a lot longer to go. It just fell flat.

I feel I must also warn you that Ink features a lot of romanized Japanese dialogue. And even as someone who has watched so much anime and J-Dramas that I can understand all those phrases without a second thought, I found it to become a bit irritating. I feel like it often got in the way of the flow of the dialogue, especially as the Japanese phrases were usually translated into English right after. I appreciate the effort to include those phrases to make the setting more authentic and to show how Katie was still learning the language, but I can’t help but wonder if there was a better way to accomplish that. If it even got on my nerves a little, I can only imagine how it feels for a reader with no knowledge of Japanese.

What bothered me a lot throughout the novel was the constant use of YA stereotypes. You have the helpless Katie, who is head over freaking heels for Tomohiro (we’ll get there). You have Tomohiro, who seems like he has split personalities – is dark and scary one moment, and then the most romantic guy ever the next. You have the absentee parent – in this case, aunt. (I really didn’t understand that – Katie’s aunt gives her a cell phone, and then later, when Katie need to call someone for help, she doesn’t have her aunt’s number – are you kidding me?) You have the obnoxious best friend who almost yells to the whole school that Katie slept over at Tomohiro’s house (seriously??). The list goes on. These all just give me a massive urge to *headdesk*.

Now, let’s get down to business. The romance to me is baffling and ultimately the biggest reason for my disappointment. Let me take you through a chronological order of this romance, actually: Katie sees Tomohiro break up with a girl in a totally heartless way because supposedly he cheated on her and got another girl pregnant. He sees her and glares at her. Katie’s friends warn her to stay away from him; he has a bad reputation. But no, she sees something in his eyes that would prove he’s not so heartless. So she STALKS him. Seriously. Stalks this guy she’s been told to stay away from because he’s dangerous.

The more Tomohiro didn’t want me to delve into his past, the more I needed to. Ink by Amanda Sun
But yeah, then the cliché arrives, and he’s really got a heart of gold but tries to keep everyone at a distance. At 41% of the novel, this little gem appears.

‘Warui,’ he whispered in apology, and I knew then that I couldn’t live without him, even when he was infuriating. Which was pretty much all the time. Ink by Amanda Sun
They are barely together at this point. But she can’t live without him. Oh hello, Bella, I didn’t know you became a blonde and moved to Japan. How interesting. Some odd number of pages after that, they say, “I love you” to each other, and THEN have their first kiss. Is it just me, or does this sound like it’s totally out of order? I mean, okay, Japanese culture, confessing before a kiss is common, so I’ll give you that one, but the can’t live without him? Please. Please. Take your instalove and leave.


Wait– What– No– I told you to leave!

Tomohiro’s eyes met mine, and in them there was none of the darkness that I had seen in the hotel, no ugliness or hatred. I saw only our link, the axis that kept our worlds spinning, that kept us in balance. And I knew that neither of us could leave the other. Ink by Amanda Sun

Clearly, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t expect this book to be so romance-centric. And I didn’t expect the romance itself to be such sickeningly sweet instalove with poor development. I think part of it stemmed from the fact that some of the more casual scenes where they were spending time together and getting to know each other were skipped (mentioned in passing later) in favor of getting to another scene where Katie annoyingly decides its her prerogative to stalk her boyfriend whenever he seems to be keeping anything from her. That all doesn’t really make this an endearing, convincing, or healthy relationship. It totally lacked chemistry. (Oh yeah, did I mention the part where he forced her into a love hotel, acting like he was going to rape her–to try to break up with her?)

Don’t get me wrong, I love anime and J-Dramas as much as the next Japanophile, and if this story were told in that format, I may have enjoyed it. But the addition of Katie’s love sick inner monologues pushed the cliché and sickeningly sweet over the top, and I couldn’t enjoy it anymore.

Summing Up:

I feel awful now. I loved the concept of this book (which was still relatively cool) and I love the author, who is unbelievably awesome. But the book didn’t work for me. The romance made it almost unbearable and honestly made me consider giving up. Writing this review was seriously painful. But I always feel I must be honest, so despite my love for Amanda Sun and my hope that a shit ton of readers will love this book anyway, I had to write this review. (`・ω・´)ゞ

In Three Words:

Recommended To:

Hardcore animanga fans (which apparently I am not) and people not as instalove-averse.

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24 responses to “ARC Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

  1. river

    AH! I totally forgot to write about the Love Hotel thing. That made me so sick! I don't care how much of it was an act, FORCING A GIRL IS NOT RIGHT. And the Love Hotel was also so cliche.

    And omfg, the whole 'I love you' thing just made me want to throw my kindle. I really hate that people translate 'suki' into 'I love you'. I freaking 'suki' my dog. It means LIKE. There's a totally different word for 'love' and even a 'dai-suki' would have been closer to 'love' than just 'suki'.

    I love your review. I guess I was too busy nitpicking the cultural stuff that the insta-love kinda took a backseat, lol. Great review!!

  2. So this review pretty much sums up my feelings. There's so much potential in this book, whyyyy did it have to be so nauseatingly cliche???? Ugh.

    I was with you on the guilt trip writing the review. I don't know much about Amanda Sun, but what I do know made me want to love her book. But like you said, she's a really good writer. Tons of room for improvement, and maybe her next series will live up to it.

    Thanks so much for linking to me! It makes my blogger heart happy when bloggers I love link to mine.
    My recent post Book Review – If I Stay by Gayle Forman

  3. Even the other reviews that you linked to our negative! : Tis a sad day for me; I definitely wasn’t expecting for this to be so romance centric, and its a shame that the intriguing and original concept is overshadowed by the clichéd instalove. Maybe with my lowered expectations I’ll be able to enjoy this more.

    • I couldn’t find a positive review from anyone I follow, which in itself is already very telling. You have no idea how hard this disappointment hit me.. I was all ready to jump and shout “FIVE STARS” but noo. I hope you can enjoy it now that you have a better idea of what to expect 🙂

  4. meg

    Ugh, too bad! The premise of this sounded so interesting but I’ve been hearing a lot of disappointment. I second Kelly^ perhaps it will be a decent lower expectations read?

    • Yeah, I had heard from some that they didn’t like it before I began, but even so it was disappointing. But maybe it’s also because I totally wasn’t in the mood for something so sickeningly sweet. I dunno. I still hope it’ll be a success because I love the author so!

  5. I have to say that your reviews always impress me. They are always so well written – they highlight the good (if there is any good to be highlighted) and they humorously but still respectfully highlight what you didn’t like. You are always so clear in your descriptions and I really get a feel for what I will and will not like in a book you review.

    But enough about you ;). I don’t think I will like Ink. The primary reason being that Katie sounds like my worst nightmare in a main character. And the rest of it doesn’t sound too promising either.

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    • I’m still like blushing over this. ♥ You flatter me so much! I must say though, I am also particularly proud of this review, and it definitely is one of my more extensive ones. But I guess that’s what happens when you have SO MANY FEELINGS. Haha.

      Yeah, Katie was so disappointing… there was so much potential to give her a multi-dimensional, deep personality… but no. *sigh*

  6. Too bad 🙁 I truly love the cover and I didn’t know about all the artwork: LOVE IT. It’s one of the points I always adore in books, so it’s a shame that it’s so based on the romance.

    • I know right? Such a pretty book, you can’t help but hope the insides will be just as pretty. *sigh* Another case of bad blurbing, I guess?

  7. Dude. Your reviews are awesome, Debby. Perfect use of GIFs and I am so envious right now. It took me over a year to find my voice and sometimes I still feel like I don’t have it right. You’re awesome, my friend.

    About the book though, I have this coming up soon, and though I love Japanese settings, I am extremely worried about this one because all but one of my friends were disappointed with Ink. GAH. All I can do is my best.

    • ♥♥♥♥ For realz, too sweet! Thank you! I think this is one of the reviews I’m most proud of to be honest, but it was also easier to find my voice for it since I had SO MANY FEELINGS hahaha. And in terms of GIFs, watching Doctor Who is the best inspiration, hahahaha.

      Oh I can’t wait to see what you think of it! I want more Japanese settings. This one didn’t work out for me, but I’m still totally in love with the country and culture.

  8. This was one of the most anticipated books in 2013 for me too. I mean that cover is beautiful and I LOVE Japan themed books. But every review I have seen so far from bloggers with similar tastes is 2 stars… *sigh* I will still read it since I got an ARC and I feel obligated to give it a try but I won’t expect much.

  9. Instalove is the WORST. Gah. Almost nothing ruins a good book faster than illogical attraction. However, I’m really curious to see this book in person because it sounds really gorgeous and maybe almost worth reading just for the pretties. But probably not, since this isn’t really my genre in the best of circumstances. What a shame this didn’t pan out!

    • Same. Perhaps more sickening than Katie’s instant OBSESSION with Tomohiro was the quick co-dependence after that… Maybe just go look at the book in a bookstore, flip through it to experience the pretties, and then leave well enough alone? ^^;

  10. Aw, like you, INK was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year. But instalove and an abundance of YA sterotypes isn’t what I had in mind D: I haven’t seen a single positive review, but I did request an eARC… so I’ll read it just the same, but with significantly lowered expectations. Who knows maybe it won’t be as bad as I think? I really want to see this book in person, though. The interior artwork sounds beautiful. Great review, and I love your use of GIFs!

    • I hope you do manage to enjoy it a bit, but yeah, this was not what I was expecting at all. I’m still debating now if it’s worth purchasing a hard copy just for the pretties, but I probably won’t… It would make my disappointment too tangible. Thank you 🙂

  11. I was really looking forward to reading this book too, and I have an eARC of it too! But… after reading this review of it… I’m not looking forward to it so much. I am strongly against instalove, and apparently that is very present in this book. But, the cover is just so pretty, and I like that you mentioned there are drawings in the book, and little flip book images? That sounds seriously cool.

    • Aww I’m sorry 🙁 This is why, for ARCs I have to read, I never read reviews before hand… I hope you like it better than I did. And yeah, all the illustrations still kind of make me want to buy a hard copy anyway LOL.

  12. Seriously disappointed. It’s sad to hear that this book is such a let-down, because you’re not the only one who had such high hopes for it.

    I suppose all the book’s worth now is something pretty on your shelf.

    • Yeah, I think this sense of disappointment is prevalent all over the blogosphere… it’s one of the biggest disappointments of 2013 so far, for sure.

      Ha, I guess it would be, but I had an e-ARC. So no hard copy for me. Now I can just start trying to wipe this from my memory…

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