Ink is Thicker Than Water
Author: Amy Spalding
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
Synopsis from 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.
I loved Ms. Spalding's debut novel, The Reese Malcolm List, and was thrilled when I found out that she had another novel coming out--and was even more thrilled when it popped up on NG. While I didn't have quite the same love for this novel, I do think that it is absolutely worth checking out.
Ink is Thicker Than Water is a novel about families. There is a love interest and friend drama, as well, but the focus is definitely on family dynamics. Kellie Brooks is the middle child. She has an adopted sister, Sara, who just turned 18 (Kellie is 16) and a half-brother who is 4. Kellie's mother and father divorced when she was in grade school and her mother is now happily married to a man who she met when she got her first tattoo. The two now run a successful tattoo parlor called The Family Ink. Kellie's father is a no-nonsense fellow who lives across town. Kellie and Sara occasionally spend the night at his house, but Kellie prefers her mother's place. Sara is their father's clear favorite and he is often on Kellie to try harder and do more. Sara is serious and studious while Kellie is more like their free-flowing, hippie mamma. Kellie's sister has just met her birth mother and seems to be getting closer and closer to this woman she just met. Kellie and Sara have always been close, but Sara no longer seems to have any time for her.
On top of this, Kellie's best friend, Kaitlyn, has started running with a cooler crowd and has started ignoring her completely. Kellie joins the school newspaper--she goes to a hippied out private school--and has gotten closer to one of the girls on the staff, but it isn't the same as her old friendship.
Finally, there is the boy, Oliver. Oliver is the brother of Sara's boyfriend, Dexter, and she is worried that dynamic will put an even further strain on her relationship with Sara and so she keeps it a secret. In the book synopsis it talks about how their relationship is intense and "spiraling out of control" which I think is a bit of a misnomer. I was expecting abuse or something equally unappealing, but I really liked Oliver. He is very sweet to Kellie and the romance was easily one of my favorite aspects of the story.
Almost every aspect of this story is done well. The family dynamics, which was the focus of her debut as well, really shone here. I loved her mother and stepfather and their tattoo shop. The hurt that Kellie feels when it seems like her sister is slipping away was well done and rang true. On those same lines, the loss of a best friend was very real and I wish it would have been explored just a tiny bit more. I remember an especially painful friend break-up I experienced late in my high school years, and this reminded me of it so much it almost hurt. Again, I thought the romance was sweet and was happy that it didn't overwhelm the narrative.
My only real complaint with this book was that her mother gives her a tattoo at the end. She is only 16. The tattoo means something, of course, but I just don't like the idea of a kid who is still growing getting permanently marked. Maybe I'm being a prude, but it's how I feel.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Ink is Thicker Than Water. Ms. Spalding seems to have quite the talent for writing real, fresh family stories and I am already anxiously awaiting her next offering.
*I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.*