Published by Entangled Teen on December 3, 2013
Amazon • Indiebound • Goodreads
For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.
But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.
It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.
In Ink is Thicker than Water, Spalding succeeds again in creating teenage characters that feel honest and authentic. They sound like teenagers, they think like teenagers, and their problems are those that real teenagers have to navigate in their daily lives. There’s something infinitely relatable about her character that I find nostalgic; her books remind me what it like to be a teenager.
I appreciated that the central conflict focused on Kellie’s family dynamics. While Kellie’s family is anything but the usual–straight-laced lawyerly dad whose approval she can never quite earn, hippie tattoo-shop-owning mother and stepfather, beautiful brainiac adopted sister–their problems are. Her sister, her confidante and parter, growing up and finding an identity outside of her role in their family. While the details may be unique to fiction, the feelings are the same that any teenager goes through–trying to find your balance while your foundation and sense of self shifts. The growth Kellie shows throughout the story is so well-written. As she, and almost everyone around her, discovers new facets to themselves, they become richer, fuller versions of themselves in a way that is fluid and natural and right.
Ink is much less romance-driven than Reece–or maybe it’s just that the romance is quieter and more realistic than swoontastic–but it fit the story perfectly. Oliver was adorable and weird. (Perfect for the adorable and weird Kellie.) There were no grand gestures, and no overblown drama. Just real, awkward, messy teenage romance. And I loved–LOVEDDDD–the way the topic of Kellie’s virginity was handled. It was so honest. No trite afterschool special language. No candles and rose petals. Just real life. And it was perfect.
Spalding has a natural and honest voice, and isn’t afraid to tackle the big issues on small scales that make up the life of a teenager so interesting. I’d recommend her to fans of Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, and Sarah Dessen.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.