There are no secrets in Saintstone…
Imagine a world where your every action, your every deed, is marked on your skin for all to see. And Leora has something to hide.
INK is a story about love, loyalty and the desire to live forever. It’s a tale that gets under your skin.
That pun aside. This book was a breath of fresh air in the overcrowded young adult genre.
Firstly, because I need to get it out of the way, can we talk about this cover? It’s actually twelve times as amazing once you’ve read the book as all the symbolism really lifts out at you. Jamie Gregory, the illustrator, definitely needs a pay rise. It’s also shiny which appeals to my magpie-like tendencies.Suffice to say this is going to have pride of place on my bookshelf for quite some time.
But aesthetics aren’t what’s really important here. What’s this story about? INK is all about a girl Leora living in a society where your deeds are tattooed on your skin so that when you die your life can be judged and if you have lived well you earn the right to be remembered through the medium of a ‘skin book’ which holds all your tattoos (or ‘marks’ as they are called in the book). This sounds far more disgusting than it is, so if you’re squeamish you don’t have to worry too much.
The story is first person, which normally I loathe but I liked the character of Leora so much, she wasn’t whiny or overly sweet, nor was she a rebel or ‘edgy’. She was a fully realised individual working within a fully realised society. Broadway’s list of acknowledgements at the end of the book are lengthy and one can only assume that this went through many degrees of testing to work out this setting and these characters, which is much appreciate on my part.
‘They know their lives are worth nothing if their stories go with them to the grave.’
As someone with tattoos this story really spoke to me. There’s a particular moment where the importance of the meaning of chosen marks is mentioned and I was nodding along because it’s the exact process I went through when choosing my ‘marks’. The tattoo process itself is also impeccably researched, another detail that makes this book excellent.
In my Want-to-Read Wednesdays post about this book I expressed my concern that there was going to be a love triangle (or a love shape of some kind), but quite happily found myself wrong. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a romance element, but quite rightly, Broadway has recognised what a lot of YA writers starting a series do not, namely that the main character has a lot of other things going on and probably wouldn’t prioritise the tall dark handsome stranger at this point. Finally someone gets it.
‘For the first time I wonder: does it matter what it says on your skin, when what is at stake is your soul?’
This book does a wonderful job of exploring the themes of remembrance and immortality. I was sort of reminded of the traditions of dia de los muertos and that idea of being forgotten vs remembered. But what really stuck me about this book was that Broadway has really thought about the events and the legends that might shape a society to have these traditions and beliefs. These aren’t swept away with the broom of ‘arbitrary traditions’ but they are painstakingly thought about and explained in a way that isn’t forced but rather are threaded through the story, in the dialogue, in Leora’s internal monologue and in the retelling of stories which feature on occasion in the text, some of which (at least) are clearly based on myth and fairytale which I greatly enjoyed.
If you’re a quick reader this book won’t last you long, it definitely falls under the young adult umbrella in terms of reading ability. But it will also slip through your fingers because it pulls you in. I had to know what happened. I’m going to have to hack into Alice Broadway’s computer and find her ideas for the sequel (just kidding Alice, but please don’t tarry too long).
This is a great start to a series, hopefully the following books are as engaging and powerful as INK has proven to be.