Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

I was really excited to read Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani. It had a cool cover and the plot synopsis mentioned yakuza, Japanese mobsters. My second-favorite-manga, Gokusen, invovles yakuza. Obviously  I was going to love this one! Except…I didn’t. While there was nothing particularly wrong with Ink and Ashes, there was nothing particularly right, either. The book was just boring.  

Plot:  Claire Takata doesn’t know much about her father, who died ten years earlier. On the anniversary of his death, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never knew they had met. In search of answers, she begins digging until she discovers her father had been a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. However, her investigations have not gone unnoticed, and the legacy of father’s actions are beginning to catch up to her. 

Thoughts: This book promises yakuza. It delivers…Utah. Seriously, the characters live in Utah and never leave. Despite being (semi?) raised in Japanese culture, Claire appears to get most of her knowledge about the culture from movies. She makes wild, crazy assumptions that even the other characters make fun of, but which usually have some grounding in truth. Even these crazy assumptions, however, can’t spice up a plot that functions around dilemmas like…who will Claire go with to the dance? Do her brother and his friends really keep guys from asking her out? Why does Claire have to practice martial arts for an hour and a half when her brothers only have practice for a half an hour? etc. 

While the book portrays a really cool friend group, I didn’t really believe it. The romance got annoying as well, wayyy too much kissing. The father-daughter relationship is also fairly heavy handed, though I suppose it is good to see a “healthy” relationship portrayed.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the author could have written this book in a way that was interesting.  Her plot was just…meh. But I was excited for it, so I suppose it had that going for it.

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