I have a confession to make. I picked Ink by Alice Broadway up almost entirely because of its shiny cover. It’s gorgeous! I’d also heard a lot of buzz about it though, all the way from YALC in July right up to release, and I was intrigued by the premise, which is that if all significant life events are tattooed on your skin, what happens if you have a secret?
Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.
I found Ink a very interesting book indeed. I hadn’t realised the theme of faith was quite so deeply embedded in it as it was – in fact my only inkling that faith was an aspect at all was because of the UKYA chat themed around the book – so it was a bit of a surprise to find that faith was pretty much at the centre of the plot. The people of this world, you see, believe that by inking their lives onto their skin, they will always be remembered. The skin is kept and bound into books that the family keep – as long as the person who has died is found worthy in the weighing of the soul ceremony. If they are not, they are deemed to be ‘forgotten’, their book is burned, and their family is forbidden to talk about them ever again. Belief in this concept is constant for Leora and everyone she knows – until new acquaintances and discoveries about her father push her to question what she’s always been taught. There is also a community of people who don’t believe in this concept, known as the Blanks, who were expelled a number of years earlier to live in what is essentially a ghetto, cut off from the rest of the population, and about whom horror stories are told.
The book starts off a bit slowly and I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Because it’s told in the first person, but there’s a lot of world building to get in, it sometimes feels like Leora is telling a story, rather than living the experience. However, within the world of the book this kind of makes sense – stories are so important to this world, I quite like the idea of Leora narrating her own. (My favourite story is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which just has the best ending. I think I shouted out loud when I read it!) Once I got into it, I found it very difficult to put down, and the world building is incredibly detailed and well written. I’m really fascinated as to how this dystopian society actually came into being, because the myths that have obviously built up around it are very detailed.
As for the characters, I did find Leora a bit annoying sometimes. She believes so absolutely in the ideas the society is based on that when she finds evidence to contradict what she’s being told, she won’t believe it, even if she sees it with her own eyes. I also think her mum could have headed a lot of trouble off at the pass if she’d just explained things properly (but then there wouldn’t be a story of course!). I loved Verity and Obel though, and it was nice to see Leora at least start to question things through the book.
By the end of Ink I was desperate for the sequel, whch I assume I will have to wait a year to read. I have no idea how many books are planned for the series, but on the basis of this first, I will be eagerly awaiting all of them!