New Review: Ink by Alice Broadway

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A fantastic debut YA novel from author Alice Broadway, Ink is a brilliant story creating a world that at it’s heart is perhaps not so different from our own.

Ink by Alice Broadway

There are no secrets in Saintstone……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.

In Saintstone, everyone carries a record of their lives on their skin.  That is, except for the Blanks, who choose not to have their skin marked and are therefore outcast. As is tradition in Saintstone, Leora’s father’s skin bearing the marks of his life in tattoos, will be bound into a book.  The soul weighing ceremony will then decide whether his life has been worthy enough for the book to be given back to the family and kept as a permanent memory.  Those found to be unworthy are forever destroyed; the ultimate shame and sorrow for any family.  It is whilst waiting for the date of the ceremony that Leora’s life and indeed her beliefs start to unravel.  Having lost the anchor that was her father, she now discovers that his life was not as blameless as she thought. Leora begins to question everything she thought she knew. She has the unusual gift of being able to ‘read’ others’ lives through their tattoos – sometimes revealing more than she wants to know about them. What lies has she been told? Are the beliefs as portrayed in the fables she has always held so dear really the truth?  If not, then perhaps even the foundations of society are corrupt.  Leora’s life becomes ever more unsettled, as she tries to decide where her future lies.

I loved this book.  Ink is a brilliant story; the kind of book that makes me love being a reader.  I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I’d finished it. Leora is a wonderful character whose voice comes through loud and clear enabling you to connect with her instantly through her thoughts, her actions and her relationships with others.  Leora’s relationship with her mother, her best friend Verity and even her employer Obel demonstrate the complexity of the many relationships we have in life and were brilliantly described. Life-changing events beyond Leora’s control cause her to reconsider everything – something I am sure we can all relate to.

The author creates a create a vivid picture of Saintstone and it’s customs. It was interesting to imagine how a society might look with everyone covered in tattoos. At first the idea of a ‘skin book’ made me feel queasy, but as you understand the significance of them as memories, you feel totally differently about the idea. They are a connection; a physical memory that can be ‘read’ again and again, and oddly this became quite beautiful.  It also raises interesting questions about the true impact of our life choices even from beyond the grave.  If we all had a visible record of our lives and choices, how would we ‘measure’ up? Can we ever really know the truth of a person’s soul? Who should decide if our lives have been ‘good’ enough? And of course, should those who choose not to live this way be punished?

“For the first time in my life, I’m doubting my faith, and it terrifies me. For the first time, I want to change the rules. For the first time I wonder: does it matter what it says on your skin, when what’s at stake is your soul?”  Leora, Ink.

Ink was full of moral choices and could spark many a debate about religion, prejudice and the fear of being ‘different’.  It describes a society in flux, with traditions and principles based on old fables or fairy tales and how we cling to these in difficult times.  But also how these can become a prison for so many. The extremes that some will go to protect and preserve tradition and use fear to control society are reflected on and create some stark choices for Leora.  For me what set this book apart was the huge depth the fables written into the story gave to the culture and the people in it. The importance of stories in the story is brilliant – as is the importance of art and creativity, which is beautifully brought to life throughout.  With some brilliant plot twists and nerve-racking moments, Ink is totally absorbing and I literally cannot wait for the next book.

Find out more at www.alice-broadway.com or on Twitter @alicecrumbs. You can read my interview with Alice here.  Thank you to Scholastic  for sending me a copy of Ink to review.

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