being brutally honest- I really didn't like this book. Though it seems I may be the only one, according to good reads. So if ninjas are something that interests you, go check out other reviews because apparently I am the only person in the world to dislike this book…
That's the end of the non-spoilery section because I really don't want to skew you away from this book if you might like it. So go do some more research, read it and come back to discuss!
When I picked this book up, I was giddy with excitement. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, assassins, all so over used. But ninjas, ninjas is something I've never seen in YA before. So I bought it, and I immediately texted my book friend Renee, she immediately told me it was going to be rubbish. Now, to be fair, the name is pretty cheesy, but since I was so looking forward to reading it, I made excuses for it, like the Harry potter titles. So I take it home and hurriedly finish Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, the sequel to Unearthy by Cynthia Hand, so I can read my wonderful book about ninjas. I start reading the book, get two chapters in and stop reading for the night. I think this is why ninjas aren't in YA a lot.
I had three major complaints that I will rant on about first, and then I will talk about scenes and characters and everything else.
Complaint Number 1-
It was so inconsistent. All the content was spent info dumping Japanese history and cultural history in huge chunks, and everything else was just slotted in sideways, squished so hopefully it sort of fitted in somewhere. I did enjoy the Japanese culture and all the history, I mean, I love history, but info dumping just doesn't engross a reader, and certainly not someone who is tired after a long day, and wanting to wind down. And it was made even worse by the characters never understanding things that they'd been told, to which the other characters had even more paragraphs of explanation.
In the blurb, it talks a lot about a love story between Jet and the boy who's meant to kill her. And yes, it's in there, but there's like five scenes where he's present and only three scenes where he'd be mentioned by her. It was really just squished into the plot and I think that they really could've done something with it, covered it better and gotten it more involved in the storyline. At least with something as interesting as that tied in with the info dumping, it might have made it a little less squished. But even at the end, he just sort of… disappeared. It was really not addressed, and he got given a bad case of Gale syndrome (that was a Hunger Games reference).
There were also a number of scenes that were sort of just… put in there and not addressed. Like the scene where Hiro goes and attends the illegal punk rock concert. I know it was meant to be inspirational and such, but… why was it in there? It wasn't like Hiro ever sort of thought back to it and went "Oh yeah I see that what they were doing was right/wrong/influenced me in this way". And also the scene where Jet says she has a massive fear of caves… Hiro just says that she needs to accept her fear, she steps in the cave, Ojiisan shows up and suddenly she has no problem with it? I know it was vaguely addressed at the end with a line about her being no longer afraid and such, but I just think things were inconsistent in general.
Complaint Number 2-
The dialogue was so cheesy. I read things in my mind and almost compared them to a soap opera. This was how most things sounded in my head-
"Jet. Your mother was a ninja."
"Yes. And so was your father and your uncle and your grandpa."
"How can this be true?!"
Yeah, I'm not sure if that was just me, but the characters just conversed so awkwardly and unrealistically. And when a book is pretty much 35% dialogue, well… yeah.
Complaint Number 3-
Jet was such an annoying character. I also found her a little dumb… Her mum's been teaching her Japanese fighting techniques and telling her stories of warriors in their family all her life, and she never even once thought it through? Never even once questioned whether she was like them? It was just kind of annoying. She also had an obsession with giving detailed descriptions of what she was wearing… when she basically wore the same thing every time. "Mini-skirt, black tank top and thigh-high boots". It was also from her perspective for majority of the story, and when she narrated, in addition to her inability to piece together facts, her thoughts were also very messy. They felt like they were scattered everywhere, floating over the pages.
I was immediately judging her in the first chapter or so, when her mother died, and very little time was spent explaining her grief. When a girl's mother dies, you're going to be upset, and especially in this case, where we are given no reason for Jet to actually resent her mother in any way, shape or form. In fact, it actually says that she loves her mother a lot. So I think that there needed to be a bit more emotion when her mother died, because Jet sort of cried in the moment and then moved on, flew to Japan and casually became a ninja. I think the same for when Ojiisan died; both she and Hiro got over it emotionally quite quickly.
Okay, now that my major complaints are over, let's talk characters and scenes.
Hiro- Hiro was exactly what the book makes him out to be- a strong little boy. However, for someone so young, I think the things he did and said were a bit above his age, to be perfectly honest. I mean, he was allowed to go out by himself to a pretty dodgy part of town. I wasn't even allowed out of the house alone at his age!
Takumi- As I said, we didn't see a lot of Takumi in this book, but for an angsty love interest, he was incredibly boring. He was just sort of… there. He didn't make me hate the book, or like it more, he was just a character and I didn't really care about him, which was really sad because I'd love to have thought he was great.
J-Bird- At first, J-Bird creeped me out. I didn't trust him, but after a while, I just realised he was another character, just like all the others. Not overly interesting, not completely annoying, just there.
My favourite scene was where Hiro and Jet are eating porridge, and Jet puts brown sugar on hers and Hiro puts raw egg and soy sauce on his and they both think what the other is eating is disgusting... I just thought that was quite funny and it was a cool contrast in cultures, and I also learned about the raw-egg-soy-sauce-porridge thing, because in all my study of Japanese culture, I never found that out until now.
Speaking of that scene, what I did like in this book was the culture... I love Japanese as a language and I love Japanese things as a general rule. So that was another reason why I bought this book. And I was really pleased that there wasn't any stereotypical Japanese things, like they didn't sit down and eat sushi for every meal. I loved seeing Japan through Jet's eyes (when she wasn't being annoying), and exploring it through this book. It was exciting to see other cities than Tokyo, and to see a lot of aspects of the country and culture. That was probably the most enjoyable thing about this book.
So yes, if you loved this book, and you want to have a friendly debate (emphasis on the friendly) or discussion, leave a comment below and I will reply to you. Also leave your twitter name and I will follow you/shout you out :)
Have a lovely day,