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. (Goodreads)
What really drew me to this book was the Japanese setting. I love Japan (although I haven't ever been I would love to go) and hoped the book would give me an insight into what it's like to live in the country. Happily the setting was everything I had hoped it would be - filled with blossom trees in the park, bentou boxes and kendo. It was fascinating to see the cultural conventions and formal customs that the Japanese live by and Katie struggled to get used to. The fact that Katie was forced to live in Shizuoka after the death of her mum, meant she was not only grieving but thrown into a strange world where even the simplest of tasks or conversations were extremely difficult to get used to.
This new life in Japan was a real struggle for her. As the only blond and non-Japanese speaker, Katie not only stood out, but the strange customs and language also caused her to suffer a few embarrassing moments. Despite this she tried really hard to learn the language and symbols (kanji) and make friends at school. In this respect she was brave, determined and bold. On the downside, her obsession with Tomohiro started off rather stalker-ish. She didn't really know him except that he was dangerous, and yet she still followed him on a number of occasions. I did forgive the fact that she bumped into him accidentally at other times and these incidents made her suspicious of him, but her attraction to him overrode her common sense and own safety. Saying that, I think as a 16 year old, Katie is far more realistic in my eyes than female characters that are all sass and confidence. At her age I would have been lovestruck with Tomohiro (and Jun), and I can accept her feelings and behaviours as a teenager's first experience of love, lust and relationships.
Despite all the mystery surrounding Tomohiro, the plot was slow to start with all the action and excitement happening in the second half of the book. As I really enjoyed reading about Katie's exploration of school, food, the strange moving drawings and general life in Shizuoka, I wasn't too fussed about the lack of action in the beginning.
The fantasy/paranormal element in the story came from Tomohiro's mysterious connection to the mythical Japanese gods or Kami. This was something completely new for me, and mixed in with the gangster underworld of Japan, it was exciting and dangerous at the same time. We only got to see a glimpse of the magical things Kami can do and how Katie ties in with this, and I can't wait to see how this area develops in subsequent books in the Paper Gods series.
If you're interested in all things Japanese, then this is a great read. It's different, filled with the charm and ethereal beauty of Japanese culture, and has plenty of potential to develop with the series.