Author: Amanda Sun
Published: June 25, 2013
Source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley.com
Katie Greene is a stranger in a strange land. Transplanted to Japan to live with her aunt after her mother's death, she feels out of step and confused about everything from following along in math class (in Japanese!) to remembering to change out of school slippers and into street shoes. Lonely and grieving, she just wants to return to North America.
Then she meets mysterious Tomohiro Yuu, who acts like a jerk sometimes and other times like a sweet and sensitive artist. What's more, his drawings are so realistic she could swear they sometimes move. But that's impossible, isn't it?
She soon discovers that Yuu is a kami, a magical spirit who can bring his own drawings to life. But this is about more than flowers and birds. People, including Yuu, have suffered the effects of his drawings before, and the criminal underworld wants to use him as a weapon against his will. She keeps getting warnings to stay away from him, but she can't stop herself from seeking him out.
I really love a book with a strong sense of place. This novel has that in spades. Katie provides us with a window into modern Japan, replete with schools, sports, and teen hangouts, as well as some of the mythology that underlies a culture so different from our own. It does require the non-Japanophile to pay pretty close attention. Luckily, there's a glossary/dictionary in the back to explain Japanese terms and traditions. I found myself getting especially confused over all the different names, but manga-loving teens will probably be just fine with that.
Katie is unfortunately more a witness than a protagonist. She spends most of the time looking on, trying to get and stay in Yuu's orbit, and it's only close to the end that we even realize she has anything to do with the ink magic. I'll pick up the second book in order to return to Katie's Japan, and to see how she becomes a more active player in her own story.