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. Quoted from Goodreads
First, things I love. I thoroughly enjoyed all the Japanese culture references. This book practically oozes Japanese lifestyle and traditions as see through Katie Green, the American transfer. She made the perfect interpreter for everything that was going on because she was the outsider experiencing it for the first time. But she wasn't exactly an ignorant outsider. Her aunt lived there, she had friends, and she studied about the place where she was living, so she never came across as stupid or clueless, just a good interpreter. Plus, the book is replete with phrases in Japanese (spelled out in English, obviously, not the characters) that you could look up in the back of the book.
I also really liked all the Japanese mythology the book is based on and how it was translated into the moder world. The magic system was fascinating, as were the characters it affected and what, exactly, it did to them. It also led to four very different, very separate problems (or villains). I won't give them away, but I love when a book has pressure from more than one angle. It sort of embodies the saying, "the enemy of my enemy is . . . my enemy."
So what's my hangup? Well, despite the exotic location and subject matter, this book follows the stereotypical ya formula point for point. Hot, mysterious, possibly dangerous boy who only the girl understands? Check. Possible love triangle? Check. The girl is special in some way that no one quite understands? Check. Insta-love? Check. Girl recently suffered an emotional trauma? Check. The list goes on. So if you're looking to mix the expected in a fabulous new location, look no further. It's not that this book isn't good, but it follows a tried and true pattern that will probably work with a lot of people. I just wish it didn't follow it so completely.
My second problem was with Katie. Don't get me wrong, I mostly liked her character. I thought she dealt with her change of location and the loss of her mother really, really well. Seriously, for the most part she's a normal, well-adjusted teen dealing with a difficult situation that keeps getting worse. My one problem with her was her fascination with Tomohiro. I get it's not normal to see a person's drawing move, but she pushed things too far. He accuses her of being a stalker, and she totally was. She follows him on her bike (especially acquired for this purpose), joins the club he's in, etc.
In the beginning, she believes he just cheated on his girlfriend and got another girl pregnant. He also acts like a jerk to her every single time she sees him, and she's still following him around? As far as she knows, he's with his pregnant girlfriend. She even sees them hugging on the bridge, swollen belly and all, and she still stalks him! It just pushed things too far for me. Even though the whole situation is explained away later, it seemed forced, and there were some chapters there that I really didn't like Katie at all.
After the whole mythology secret thing comes out the book gets a lot better. The action picks up, the conflict really begins to happen. I just wish the author had chosen a better way for Katie and Tomohiro to end up together. It was too insta-love/stalker fest for me.
So would I recommend this book? Yes. It has some great elements I really enjoyed. Just know what you're getting into from the beginning and try not to judge Katie too harshly for those few chapters when you honestly can't understand what in the world she's thinking. The villains and the mythology were fantastic, as was the setting. For me, the end of this book was more of a 4 star thing with the stalker chapters averaging more of a 1.5, so I'm awarding this book 3 stars. Still, I have really high expectations for the next one. There is so much potential for this series, I'm hoping it lives up to it.