I have finished book six in my reading challenge.
This time, I read Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan.
This book was the one I read for “A book recommended by a librarian or bookseller.” As it turns out, I never did ask the librarians for a recommendation – my library is always really understaffed and all the librarians seem way too busy when I go, so I didn’t want to bother them with something silly like asking for a recommendation. But I found a user on Reddit who worked in a bookstore, and when I mentioned that not only do I enjoy reading books like Japanland, If You Follow Me, and Learning to Bow, which talk about foreigners living in Japan for an extended period of time, but that I also am writing a book about a foreigner who goes to Japan for a year and I’m going to be working in Japan starting in July, she recommended this one to me.
Hannah’s Winter is a middle-grade paranormal adventure novel. Our protagonist, Hannah, has a crazy mother who drags her to Japan for winter vacation and leaves her to stay with a family that her mother is acquainted with while her mother travels around Japan, interviewing people for her newest book. Hannah has a very unique voice – she mentions that her mother likes to SPEAK IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and would be VERY DISAPPOINTED if Hannah didn’t learn any kanji while she stayed in Japan. And she’s got a very unique perspective of the world. This book was particularly enjoyable in that I was able to gather some new ideas for my own novel while reading it – Hannah’s Japanese speaking and listening comprehension before she goes to Japan is exceptional, but she isn’t very good at reading and writing. As I read this book, I noted things like when Ms. Meehan gave Hannah a language or cultural barrier and even the idea that some lines of dialogue can be left in Japanese without a direct translation, which I shall explore further in the next draft of my own novel.
Hannah is to stay with her host family, who run a paper good shop, selling things like kites, notebooks, calligraphy paper, etc. One day, she finds a prophecy written on a slip of paper in the shop, and soon after, starts being haunted by the ghost of a young boy named Kai. With her host sister helping her, Hannah must solve the mystery of the puzzle to find out what happened to Kai and how to help him rest in peace.
The pacing at times felt a little bit rushed, but nothing I couldn’t follow. And the characters, situation, setting, and plot are all phenomenal – this is a book I intend to read again.
I would most definitely recommend this book to others. Even if you don’t have a vested interest in Japanese culture like I do, Hannah’s story is compelling and memorable and a definite page-turner. A five-star rating for sure. Quite refreshing, actually, because the last book I read for this challenge got a mere two stars.
If you find a copy of this book at your local library or bookstore, definitely give it a read. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up late into the night reading it.:) The Japanese cultural aspects, especially, are given such consideration that even I’m jealous of how much she knows. I’m surprised this book isn’t as well-known as it is – I’d never even heard of it until now, and I thought I’d read every book out there that was either a true or a fictionalized account of a foreigner living in Japan.