Skip to main content
Cover for Ink and Ashes

Ink and Ashes

Valynne Maetani


List Price: 19.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Best Books, Kirkus Reviews
Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
New Visions Award Winner, Tu Books
Junior Library Guild Selection
Asian/Pacific American Award Honor for Literature, Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA)

In this heart-pounding YA mystery, teenager Claire Takata stumbles on a secret from the past and must race to outrun her father's dangerous legacy.

Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away ten years ago. But on the anniversary of his death, she finds a letter from her deceased father to her stepfather. Before now, Claire never had a reason to believe they even knew each other.

Struggling to understand why her parents kept this surprising history hidden, Claire combs through anything that might give her information about her father ... until she discovers that he was a member of the yakuza, a Japanese organized crime syndicate. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.

The race to outrun her father's legacy reveals secrets of his past that cast ominous shadows, threatening Claire, her friends and family, her newfound love, and ultimately her life. Winner of Tu Books' New Visions Award, Ink and Ashes is a fascinating debut novel packed with romance, intrigue, and heart-stopping action.

Tu Books, 9781620142110, 368pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2015

About the Author

Valynne Maetani grew up in Utah and obtained a Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In a former life, she was a project manager and developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes, is the winner of the 2013 New Visions Award and a Junior Library Guild 2015 selection. Maetani is a member of the We Need Diverse Books team and is dedicated to promoting diversity in children's literature because all children should grow up believing their stories deserve to be told.

Conversation Starters from

How does Maetani use Claire’s letters to her father

throughout the book to demonstrate how Claire has

changed? How is Claire the narrator different from

Claire the letter writer? What do you think accounts for

this difference?

What reasons motivate Claire’s mother to keep the information about

her husband from her children? Is she selfish or selfless in keeping this

information? What would you do if you were in her position?

What are some signs that Claire’s father was a part of the yakuza?

What made the yakuza life attractive to Claire’s father? Do you think

his family and economic circumstances excuse or justify his decision

to join the yakuza?

Why might Claire’s father, Henry Sato, decide to become a judge after

leaving the yakuza? How might his experiences in the yakuza help

him in his new career as a judge? Is it appropriate for him to be a

judge? Do a judge and a member of the yakuza have similar visions or

interpretations of justice?

How does shame influence both Chase and Arakaki to hurt Claire?

What are the roots of their perceived dishonor, respectively? Why do

they think hurting Claire will help them find closure? Do you think

revenge can bring closure?

At several points throughout the novel, Claire struggles with whom

to trust. When her stepfather asks if she trusts him, she wonders, “If I

felt his love, did that also mean I trusted him?” Do you think that love

and trust are always the same? Is it possible to love someone without

trusting them, or without knowing the whole truth about them?

If Claire were to write one more letter to her father at the end of the

book, what do you think she would say or ask him? Do you think she

would forgive and accept him or has too much changed?

Maetani has said she wanted to create a book she never got to read: a

contemporary title with a Japanese protagonist. In your opinion, does

the book reinforce or shatter stereotypes of Japanese culture?

The book ends with most questions answered, but Maetani leaves the

door open for a sequel. Would you want to read a sequel to Ink and

Ashes? If so, what do you hope would happen in it?