I was older than all my friends when I got my first tattoo.
– Opening sentence
I was extremely excited to win this special copy of Ink from @ScholasticUK, as I have wanted to read it ever since I got my hands on the teaser back in August 2016.
In Ink, tattoos (or ‘marks’ as they are referred to in this book), are obligatory. You get your first mark, you name, two days after you are born and from then on every important milestone in your life in inked; the good and the bad.
Upon your death, your marks are preserved and compiled into a Skin Book, and your book is judged in the “weighing of the soul ceremony”. If your life is deemed to be good – and your soul is worthy – your book remains with your family and your name will be forever remembered.
But if your soul is deemed unworthy, your book is burnt and you are forgotten; the worst fate imaginable.
As someone with tattoos, Ink immediately appealed to me. My tattoos are personal and significant to me, but they were a choice. Would I appreciate my tattoos as much if they were forced upon me, for everyone to read and judge?
In Ink, people can read your whole life through your marks. How old you are, your occupation, your failures and your successes. There are no secrets; even the condemned cannot hide or escape.
It’s a truly interesting premise, and as the first book in a series, it does really well at setting the scene and introducing the background and histories to the reader. Not everyone in this alternative/futuristic world (it’s not clarified) believes in being marked. The “Blanks” choose not to brandish their skin with their stories, and have therefore been banished into hiding and a struggling existence.
Because those who choose to keep their lives secret, must have something to hide, right? Therefore, Blanks are feared by everyone and are seen as a cursed enemy. That’s what Leora believes anyway. That is, until her Dad dies and her whole world is turned on it’s head.
Everything she has ever believed in is compromised. She has been lied to her whole life; even the ink and marks she loves can’t be trusted.
In many ways, Ink is the familiar moral dilemma; black and white, good and bad – can there always be such a clear definition? Especially when family and friends become involved. Can a bad act ever be good? Can a good person still be good, even when they’ve done bad things?
However, Alice Broadway presents these questions in a unique way. I love the mix of fairytales and spirituality intertwined throughout the story. I also like the sparks of feminist thinking coming from Leora, a good moral guide for all young adults (and old adults!):
The tutor asks hard and searching questions about my ‘feminine’ style and wondering out loud whether men will want to be marked by a girl. I keep my mouth shut at that, but wonder whether he’s asked any of the male apprentices how people will feel about being inked by “boys”.
-Chapter Seven, Ink
…but there was something sneering in his voice. “I never knew they let girls in. But for ages I thought you were a boy.”
I stare at him, not sure how to respond.
“No, not that you look like a bloke or anything,” Karl is smirking. “It’s just I never expected a girl taking inking class, so I assumed…”
“You assumed I was a man because I wanted to be an inker? Thanks Karl, you’ve made my night.”
– Chapter Twelve, Ink
Broadway’s writing is very compelling – I read the whole book in one sitting – although I felt in some areas there wasn’t enough character development/background information to understand some of the character’s and their relationships with each other.
For example, Leora and Karl hate each other, but it’s never really explained why. Apparently, they just always have, but surely something must have happened to justify a hatred so intense? Perhaps it will be something that will be developed in the next book – yet I’m unsure whether she will continue with Leora’s story, as it could easily be left where it ends, and start with someone else’s?
Regardless, overall I really enjoyed Ink, and think a lot of others will. It’s got something of a nostalgic vibe – like the YA genres I used to read in my teenage years, but it’s also enjoyable as an adult reader. I’ll definitely be on the look out for the next installment!
(4 / 5)
The whole town is blank.
– Final sentence.