TITLE: Ink is Thicker Than Water
AUTHOR: Amy Spalding
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Entangled Teen / 2013
SOURCE: Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads / Author's Website
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.
Thoughts and Reactions
Ink is Thicker Than Water is the first book I've read by Amy Spalding. I kept meaning to read The Reece Malcolm List after hearing amazing things about it when it first came out, but somehow never got around to it. I'm regretting that now because I thoroughly enjoyed her second novel.
Ink is Thicker Than Water delves into non-traditional family dynamics and what it's like to slowly start to grow up, change and maybe grow apart from things that had always been a constant in your life. Spalding's writing doesn't glamorize or making anything more dramatic; it holds a mirror up to a lot of very common experiences. Kellie is a middle child in a fairly non-traditional family. Her parents are divorced, her mother remarried, her older sister is adopted and her mother runs a tattoo shop with her stepfather. It's messy and loving and Kellie is just kind of floating along. She's one of those teens who doesn't want to appear to try to hard and doesn't think she's that great at anything, but when her sister starts pulling away in favour of her biological mother and her best friend starts ditching her for the popular girls Kellie feels completely un-tethered and needs to find herself again.
I enjoyed reading about Kellie's experiences specifically because nothing seemed that unusual or out of the ordinary. There was a story arc and some drama, but it felt real, like this was just Kellie's life and not a soap opera. The family dynamic in this story was messy and beautiful and real as it should be. You can tell all of her parents care about her, even if she can't always see it and despite the hurt they can cause each other at times there was always love beneath it. I sometimes love reading about positive family dynamics; they can be rare and you're so lucky if you have a loving and supportive family and I can get behind a book that shows them, mess and all.
There were times in the book I wanted to shake all the characters. Kellie made some poor choices and her sister Sara at times was downright mean. However, just because I didn't support every decision made in the book, doesn't mean I didn't understand where each one is coming from. These characters often did not make the best decisions, but they always made sense for the character and I could see their reasoning.
The relationships in this book were what made it for me. The relationship between Kellie and her family was supportive and you could sense the love, the worry, the hope, but Kellie's friendships and relationship with Oliver, the cute college boy were also pretty spot on. Friendship is high school can be hard; people are changing and growing apart and finding new interests and sometimes it's hard to maintain friendships that you once valued so much. It's this kind of problem that Kellie faces and her struggle to find her place and make new friends was so relatable for me. That sort of in between time when you feel like you don't have any close friends and aren't sure where you're supposed to sit at lunch or how you're supposed to act? Been there. I think a lot of people could relate to Kellie's experiences in that way.
I didn't think Kellie's relationship with Oliver was the most well drawn relationship, but I can also forgive a lot since we're getting the story from Kellie's perspective. For her having a boyfriend is more about having somebody to make out with and talk to a little after. It's not the most mature relationship, but it made sense. She likes him and likes hanging out with him, but finds him a little intense (which he totally is). Plus she's got so much going on in her life she can't really get that emotionally invested in anybody. Also. She's sixteen. Hanging out and making out with somebody you're pretty into, but maybe don't love makes sense to me.
Ink is Thicker Than Water wasn't the most fast-paced or exciting book I've read this year, but I found it a touching and realistic portrayal of family, friends, growing up and finding your place in the world. It doesn't speak to a universal teenage experience, but it does speak to one type of experience that I found captivating. I would re-read this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of Amy Spalding's works.