December 27, 2013

Ink Is Thicker Than Water - Amy Spalding

Ink is Thicker Than Water Amy Spalding book cover
Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thank you!)  || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

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. (from Goodreads)

During a recent Twitter chat, I mused how I wanted more contemporary books that emphasized family and friendship. Ink is Thicker Than Water is precisely the kind I meant, offering up a story that focuses primarily on Kellie and her family, even as she also has friendships and romance to deal with. Even though the book didn't necessarily get my attention right off the bat, it won me over eventually.

Kellie's story is fairly typical of contemporary novels. She's at an age where she's discovering more about herself, and what she likes, and the things that she enjoys to do. She's also at an age where vulnerability is harder to admit to, she's let in on all the adult issues families often deal with and she experiences the first buds of romance. It's a confusing mess of a time (based on my own experience), and I really think that Spalding did an excellent job of capturing that in this novel. It felt like a snapshot of a specific part of Kellie's life, which I'll mention again later on.

It twisted my heart and squeezed a little too hard to witness Kellie's family's new situation. It was like from a place where everything was settled, things were just thrown into uproar when Kellie's sister Sara meets her birth mother. That singular event cascaded into a whole bunch, and watching it happen was really heartbreaking. I recognized that feeling so well, particularly because I've been through a version of it myself, and I think Spalding was spot on in writing it. She managed to handle the various reactions -- Kellie's feeling of distance with her sister, her worrying over her mom's attempts to put on a brave face, trying to please her dad and compete with Sara's stellar achievements -- deftly, convincing me that Kellie's story was extremely real. I loved this; it was just what I craved in YA.

I like that Spalding was able to weave in the friendship and the romance, albeit having more success with the friendship. Kellie's relationship with her best friend Kaitlyn is tested by the fact that they're starting to embrace separate interests; her new interests, such as the school newspaper, lead to new friendships that broaden her perspective. The easy flow between dealing with the hardship of allowing a friendship to grow as the two people involved do and the entrance of new friends was well-done. 

The romance, on the other hand, was pretty much a secondary part of this novel. While it seemed pretty sweet to have Kellie distracted by the attraction and attention she receives from Oliver, it also seemed a bit too instant to me. I wasn't a particularly big fan of how it played a role in this novel, but I can understand getting swept up in all those feelings when you're overwhelmed in real life.

Ink is Thicker Than Water hit the spot when it came to providing me with an authentic teen's story, filled with family, friendship, romance and topped off with discovering herself. I think using the tattoos to make a point, or paint a metaphor, was quite clever. It added a bit of character to the story, and also made me think of ways that it could prove to be symbolic about this period in Kellie's life. Even though I do wish there had been a little more to that ending instead of being so abrupt, I rather liked this novel.


  1. I've been meaning to check this one out, and I think your review has convinced me to bump this one up on my TBR pile! I'm totally in the mood for some more contemporary, and I've heard great things about Amy Spalding's contemporaries. I think it's so different and cool that she's able to make romance a secondary issue in her books, and make family relationships the main issue or friendships. I'm so in for some change in YA contemporary! What's better, I'm glad to hear that she makes everything realistic. So happy that you enjoyed this one, Alexa! Wonderful review. :)

    1. I'm glad that my review has convinced you to bump this one up! Honestly, it's such a great contemporary novel. I'm always looking for contemporaries with family and friends as a focus, and this one is a great example of that. Happy reading!

  2. I haven't read anything by Spalding yet, but I like how you mention that this one really focuses on friendship and family. Those are two things I've also wanted more of in contemporary YA!

    1. Yes, I really think that this book is a great example of that! It really focuses heavily on Kellie dealing with her family and her friends, moreso than the romance. Happy reading!

  3. I really liked Reece Malcolm so I am looking forward to reading this one. It is interesting that you pointed out how the romance is secondary here, because that is exactly how I felt about Reece, it kind of just felt like it was thrown in there out of obligation to YA, but I loved the family element of the story. I wish authors didn't feel the need to add in romance where it isn't needed. While I do generally love romance in YA, I think that if it is an afterthought there isn't much point.

    Either way I am really looking forward to this, especially after reading your review. I think I will pick up a copy tomorrow.

    1. I absolutely agree -- romance doesn't have to be thrown into a book if it's not necessary! I really liked that this book focused heavily on Kellie and her family, and also on her friendships. It made for a refreshing change! I hope you enjoy it. Happy reading!

  4. I like the name Oliver. I also like tattoos. Also you make Ink Is Thicker... sound really good! I mean even if it wasn't an immediate OMG BEST BOOK EVER or anything like that, it still sounds interesting to me in the way that you describe it. Nice job!

    1. I'm glad that I was able to interest you in this book! It's pretty darn good, and I do like how Spalding handled the family and friendship aspects of this novel.


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