Publication date: 02 Jan 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Have you ever read a book that felt like it was written for you? Ink by Alice Broadway is a massively underrated book that is beautifully written and contains layers upon layers of depth and meaning. I'll admit that I picked it up for it's cover, it's absolutely gorgeous. But I was shocked at the amazing story that lies inside.
"I'll become someone new. Through blood and pain and ink, I can be remade." -Leora, Ink
Leora lives in Saintstone, a closed-border town that begins "marking" people at 2 days old. Tattoos are a way of life here. Every achievement, every damnation, every significant event in your life is marked on your skin, to keep your soul from carrying that weight. These marks can be read, superficially or more deeply, by the people around you. Upon death, your skin will be flayed and turned into a book of remembrance for your family to keep always.
Now, at first it seemed morbid to me. The idea of the flaying is at first disgusting and horrid. But then I think of the many existing funeral customs that exist, and remember that an urn with a family member's ashes isn't so different. The flayer, like a priest, is an honored job, to be done with care and love and respect.
Once you get past that strangeness, the custom, and the love that the families have for the books of their ancestors, is really quite beautiful.
But what if you do something bad? There are marks for crimes, of course. But what if you commit a crime bad enough that you should be forgotten? Well in that case, you are marked with a crow, and when your book is created, it will be burned. Your name will be marked from your family's skin, and you will be Forgotten.
Now as we all know, the government is certainly not infallible. They can be not just wrong, but also biased, and have many ulterior motives. Of course there should be a group of people that believe that marks should not be mandatory, that they should be by choice. These people are known as "blanks" for their empty skin, and are treated like the boogey man. What are they hiding beneath the blankness that is so bad that they would choose not to wear it for the world to see?
Leora's father dies at the beginning of the story. But when she goes to visit her father's book before his "weighing of the souls" ceremony, she finds that his book has been confiscated. Ink is the story of the secrets she uncovers when she tries to find out why.
There are many innuendos, morals, and meanings layered into this that could be written into entire essays. The cultural perceptions of beauty. The idea that beauty is skin deep. The idea that you can ever really know a person by their story. Truth, and whether or not keeping it from someone can actually protect them. The moral goodness of a person, or even a government, in shades of black, white, and gray. The family ties that bind people between life and death. The strings that bind us to each other, our families, friends, and leaders, and how each string can be pulled to manipulate a person. It's a veritable Animal Farm of meaning, and I feel like I could read it 6 more times and still find something new each time.
This is not a suspense story. This is an onion of a book, for you to open layer upon layer to discover what's inside. Well, there's nothing awesome inside an onion. Maybe a trifle, or a caramel apple. Enough with the food analogies, I'm making myself hungry, but suffice it to say that I believe that's why the book is underrated, because YA readers expect an edge of your seat page-turner, and while this isn't that, I could not wait to read every page of this book.
There are many books that I read and tell you, READ THIS, I NEED YOU TO READ THIS. Each story I love is a piece of my soul, a piece I want to share. This one has moved right up to the top of "best books of 2019" and jumps into my top 10 best books I've ever read. I encourage you to pick it up, to read it and reread it, and then come talk to me about it on Instagram, because I have lots of feelings right now that need to be shared!
Thank goodness it's a trilogy, you'll find me off reading the sequel, Spark.
I'd say 5/5 but that's not enough credit. Buy the hardcover so it can withstand multiple readings, you'll need it!
What kind of Ink tells your story?