Fingerprints of Youby Kristen-Paige Madonia, Terry Ribera
A teen embarks on the road trip of a lifetime in this authentic, beautifully written debut novel.
Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as/b>… See more details below
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A teen embarks on the road trip of a lifetime in this authentic, beautifully written debut novel.
Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as they are moving yet again, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant from a reckless encounter—with a guy Stella had been flirting with.
On the verge of revisiting her mother’s mistakes, Lemon struggles to cope with the idea of herself as a young unmarried mother, as well as the fact that she’s never met her own father. Determined to have at least one big adventure before she has the baby, Lemon sets off on a cross-country road trip, intending not only to meet her father, but to figure out who she wants to be.
Lyrical and moving prose from an original voice whose writing Judy Blume calls “luminous” deftly depicts the nuanced conflicts of early motherhood and the search for identity.
"Lemon's thoughts, actions and feelings are palpable, and we are tugged along with her on her journey to find out who she isand how much the imprints of those in her past and present will affect her future. Beautiful prose and a heartfelt story."
"A strong first novel, Madonia’s coming-of-age tale reveals both flawed and compassionate characters."
"Debut novelist Madonia offers an intimate reflection on the meaning of family...[a] thoughtful story about finding an identity and a home."
"A character-driven...a well-written and thought-provoking debut."
"Readers will appreciate the candidness of the writing. This compelling debut novel is sure to appeal."
"The characters are complex, fully drawn people who make mistakes, change, grow, and remain likable through it all."
Read an Excerpt
MY MOTHER GOT HER THIRD TATTOO on my seventeenth birthday, a small navy hummingbird she had inked above her left shoulder blade, and though she said she picked it to mark my flight from childhood, it mostly had to do with her wanting to sleep with Johnny Drinko, the tattoo artist who worked in the shop outside town.
“Stella-Stella,” he said when we entered. He sat in a black plastic chair in the waiting area, flipping through a motorcycle magazine, and he looked up and smiled. Big teeth, freckles, alarmingly cool. “Good to see you.”
He put the magazine down as the bell above our heads dinged when the door closed behind us. He was tan and toned and a little bit sweaty, and he wore a dirty-blond ponytail that hung to his shoulders. His sharp eyes were so blue, I thought of swimming pools and icicles the first time I saw him. My mother told me about Johnny Drinko after he gave her the orange and blue fish on her hip, but I’d expected him to be as unlikable as the other burnouts Stella hung around with back then. I had not expected him.
“And you brought your kid sister this time.” He winked at her, and I popped a bubble with my piece of pink Trident, listened to the hot hiss of the tattoo needle inking skin somewhere inside the shop.
The hummingbird was Stella’s third tattoo, but it was the first time she let me come along, so she was nervous, her hips shifting from left to right inside her tiny white shorts. It took a lot to make her shaky, and I could tell she wanted a beer or maybe a highball of vodka, but I knew she’d go through with it since I was there watching. Once she made her mind up, there was no going back. It was one of the things I liked and disliked about my mother.
“Lemon’s my kid,” she said to Johnny, and she tucked a panel of frizzy bleached hair behind her ear.
She’d gotten a perm a few weeks earlier and was still adjusting to the weight of the nest hovering above her shoulders. It was the first and last perm she ever got, but I’ll never forget the vast size of her head with her hair frazzled and sprung out around her face like that.
“I figured it’d be good to bring her along, let her see how much it hurts,” she said, and I thought of our argument the week before when I announced I wanted a tattoo of my own.
“Like hell,” she had said when I told her about the sketch of the oak tree I found in an art book at school. We were in the apartment, and she was making baked chicken for dinner. Again.
“You have two,” I reminded her.
“I also have nineteen years on you and my own job.” She peeled back the skin of the bird’s breast and shoved a pat of butter underneath.
I rolled my eyes. “I’ve got my own money,” I said, which was true. I’d been saving my allowance and slipping five-dollar bills from her purse when she wasn’t paying attention.
“You’re not even seventeen yet, and I’m your mother. No. Chance. In. Hell,” she said, and she put her hand up like a stop sign as if directing traffic, signaling that the conversation was indisputably over.
Johnny Drinko wiped his palms on his jeans and ran his eyes over the curves of my body. “Lemon, huh? How’d you get a name like that?”
And then my mother used the laugh she saved for men she wanted to screw when she wasn’t sure they wanted to screw her back. “Look at her.” She nudged me forward toward him. “Sharp and sour since the day she popped out.”
It never ceased to amaze me that she insisted on using this line for explaining my name, when really we both knew she picked Lemon on account of her obsession with the color the September I was born. She was a recreational painter, and each month she randomly selected one shade to use as the base for all her work. September of the year I was born was the month of Lemon, a muted yellow paint she found in an art store when we lived in Harrisburg.
Johnny Drinko sat down behind the cash register and lit a Marlboro Red while my mother leafed through binders of tattoo sketches. The shop smelled like plastic wrap and cigarettes and sweat, and I could feel Johnny watching me from behind the counter, so I cocked my hip and put my hands on my waist, reciprocating.
I’d lost my virginity that spring to a senior at school, and even though we only did it four times before he got suspended for selling weed at a soccer game, I considered myself to be experienced. The first time the pothead and I tried it regular, the second time he did it from behind, and the last two times he used his tongue first, so even though I was just getting started, I thought I knew what felt good and what didn’t. I’d learned enough, at least, to recognize that a guy like Johnny Drinko could teach me all the things I still wanted to learn.
I moved next to his chair and looked at the photos taped on the wall behind his head: Polaroids of bandanna-wearing bikers and big-haired blondes with crooked teeth showing off sharply inked dragons and crosses on forearms and ankles. “Roughnecks” we called them, the townies who never left town, never went to college or got a real job, the grown-ups who never grew up. There were also photos of sports-team emblems tattooed on fine-tuned athletes and pictures of girls in low-slung jeans sporting new tramp stamps: fresh flowers and vines inked at the base of their spines. Aerosmith played from a set of cheap speakers mounted on the wall, and a fan blew warm air inside from a corner by the window while Johnny leaned over a leather notebook sketching a tree with long-reaching roots and thin, naked branches.
“You going to the race next month?” he asked me.
I shook my head, and behind us my mother said, “Oh, I think I like this one” to no one in particular.
Stella and I lived in a small city in southern Virginia that had a NASCAR racetrack built on the outskirts of town. We’d been living there for over a year and a half, and race weekend happened twice a year, but the closest I’d come to going was parking with the pothead in a cul-de-sac near enough to the track that we could listen to the buzz of cars between beers and awkward conversation.
“I must have inked a hundred NASCAR fans last spring. This one guy had me do a foot-long car driving up his back. It was pretty cool, really.” Johnny nodded to the photos on the wall. “I did a good job.”
I shrugged and popped another pink bubble, my trademark gesture that fall. My mother called the habit white-trash, but my friend Molly-Warner read an article in one of her magazines about the importance of drawing attention to your lips when flirting with boys, and she insisted we follow the rule.
“His old man had been a racer, got killed back in ’81 in a crash,” Johnny said between drags off his smoke. “That tat was really important to him.”
I could see the black ink of a design inching up the back of his neck, and I suddenly wished my mom wasn’t there so I could reach over and take a drag off his Marlboro. I needed my mouth around the tight white tube where his lips had just been. I was looking at him, and he was looking back, but then a woman with bright red hair pushed aside the white sheet that separated the waiting area from the tattooing room, spoiling the moment. She had wet, glassy eyes and a square of Saran Wrap taped below her collarbone.
“All good, Suzie Q?” Johnny asked, and they moved to the register.
“It’s a keeper.” She smiled at him and then at me.
I nodded like I knew exactly how it felt to walk into a room without a tattoo and to walk out of the same room permanently adorned. She shifted her attention back to Johnny, who was eyeing her with a slick smile slapped across his face, and I had a quick but detailed vision of them screwing in the truck bed of a white pickup. She was on top, bucking back and forth with her palms pressing into his chest, and his eyes were closed while his body pulsated beneath all that pumping. He might have liked it, or maybe not. I couldn’t decide.
My mother called my name then, and I looked up and winked at Johnny before I turned away from him, checking to see if I could get his attention the same way Stella and the redhead had.
It took about twenty minutes for Stella to settle on the hummingbird, then she handed Johnny the sketch and leaned over the counter where he sat. “You mind?” she said, and she took a smoke from his pack. I thought of her mood swings back when she quit and the nervous way she used to chew her fingernails. She caught me watching her when she brought the Marlboro to her lips. “See something you like, kiddo?” she asked, and then she followed Johnny Drinko to the customers’ chair behind the white sheet.
The other tattoo artist, a man with a thin black braid, finished cleaning his gear while Johnny completed the stencil and poured ink into tiny white paper cups sitting on the stand next to his chair.
“I’m taking lunch,” the other guy said, and he pulled off a pair of pale blue surgical gloves and tossed them into the trash.
And then it was just me, my mom, and Johnny Drinko squished inside the heat of the tattoo room.
That was the third town we had lived in since we’d left Denny, and I liked it best, because of the low mountains and the sticky summers and the way our apartment smelled like fresh bread all the time, since we lived next to the sub shop by the mall. It was a rough ride to get there after the six months at the Jersey Shore with Rocco from the pool hall, and I was glad to be in Virginia, where my mom seemed calmer and the men she dated were quieted by the innate laziness of a small town. My best friend, Molly-Warner, had a car and a fake ID, and we had spent the summer making out with boys from school and smoking cigarettes at the public pool in town. I’d finally found my lady curves, as Stella called them once while watching me under raised eyebrows, and when school started that month, Molly-Warner and I would head to the neighborhood park after class and spend our afternoons in our bikini tops, lying out, reading books, and gossiping about our teachers, our classmates, the latest school scandal. Stella liked to take her notebooks up to the Blue Ridge Parkway on the weekends to sketch split-rail fences and ragged farmhouses she’d paint back at home. It was the first time I felt like we were ready to put Denny and Rocco and those last years behind us, and I hoped we stayed in town until I finished high school. It was my senior year, and I was sick of moving boxes and cheap motels and having to make friends every time my mom picked a new place for us to live. I needed to finish driver’s ed. I needed to stay in one place long enough so I could recognize the faces in the crowd when graduation finally happened. I’d finally found a group of friends, mellow kids like me and Molly-Warner who partied a little but also knew how to keep out of trouble, and the librarian at school liked me enough to drop the late fees I’d accrued over the summer. Plus, Stella had a good job working in the jewelry department at J.C. Penney, and I could tell she liked the cheap rent and the apartment that smelled like bread too.
Johnny Drinko was pressing the hummingbird stencil against my mom’s skin when she licked her lips and said, “Get me a mint from my purse, Lemon. I need something to suck on.”
It was not the first time I’d watched my mother throw herself at a man. She’d been throwing herself at men in each town we passed through ever since we left Denny after the black eye. She was pretty and thin and wore cute clothes, and after all the drama when she and Denny split up, I was just glad to see her back on her feet. I knew she liked the game—the chase and the satisfaction of getting what she wanted—but there was something about Johnny Drinko that made me nervous, something I sensed right away that day at the shop. He was mysterious like he had a secret, and controlled like he knew what he wanted, and that had me worried. If Stella wanted him and he didn’t want her back, if the game lasted too long, she’d walk away. While we’d been living in Virginia, things had finally evened out, but I was constantly afraid she’d get bored or, worse, vulnerable, and I knew it would be someone like Johnny Drinko who would send us moving again.
I used to tell my friends my mother was made of metal and glass. She was smooth and sturdy on the surface, but there was always that part in danger of shattering, a childlike aspect that never disappeared. I resented that unpredictability and tiptoed around the threat of her cracking apart, of her dragging us out of one city and into the next.
“Let’s motor,” she said as she took the breath mint from me, sucked it between her lips with a smile, and settled into the chair. Then I watched Johnny Drinko ink a perfect permanent hummingbird above her shoulder blade.
What People are saying about this
"Lemon's thoughts, actions and feelings are palpable, and we are tugged along with her on her journey to find out who she isand how much the imprints of those in her past and present will affect her future. Beautiful prose and a heartfelt story."Kathryn Erskine, National Book Award-winning author of Mockingbird
"A strong first novel, Madonia’s coming-of-age tale reveals both flawed and compassionate characters."VOYA
"Beautifully told."Kirkus Reviews
Meet the Author
Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of Fingerprints of You, and her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, The New Orleans Review, American Fiction, and Five Chapters. She holds an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, and now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband and son. She teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha MFA program, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University. Visit her at KristenPaigeMadonia.com and @KPMadonia.
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You guys know what a huge fan of contemporary YA I am, especially when it's a coming-of-age story. With that said, when I first heard about FINGERPRINTS OF YOU, I knew I had to read it. I mean, look at the cover. Look at the summary! It just has to be good, right? Well, it wasn't good... It was fabulous! The story focuses on Lemon and the dynamic relationship she has with her mother, Stella. Much to Lemon's dismay, she's traveling down the same path as Stella, and it's not necessarily the best road to follow. From that very first moment in the tattoo parlor with Johnny Drinko, you knew what was going to happen. Now, 17 and pregnant, Lemon begins to wonder about the father she never knew. With that said and a "gift" from her mother, she decides to travel in search of her long lost father in the hopes of finding answers and possibly more. Though I knew I'd like this story, I wasn't expecting to fall in love with it. I'm telling you guys, it's the writing. Kristen Paige-Madonia just has this undeniable natural talent for story telling. I literally went from hating a character one minute and loving her the next. Oh, Lemon. I'm having the hardest time trying to fathom into words how incredible her story is. Honestly, it's something you'll have to experience for yourself. One of the things I loved about this book is that it reminds readers that there are consequences to having unprotected sex, one of which being pregnancy. It's not this glorified adventure that MTV portrays. Teenage pregnancy is becoming more and more common in today's world, and it doesn't help when certain novels exalt having unprotected sex. With that said, I bow down to you, Kristen, for writing such a brilliant and realistic novel and teaching everyone a very valuable lesson. Though the book mainly centers around Lemon, somewhere along the way I became particularly invested in Emmy's story. When Lemon and her mother move for the millionth time, Emmy is the first (and only) person to befriend Lemon. They're both practically opposites and yet they mesh well together. The story with Emmy and her father in Afghanistan completely moved me in so many different ways. These two girls definitely don't live an easy life and for this, it makes me love them even more. A mixture between The Wonder Years and Juno, FINGERPRINTS OF YOU is a novel you won't want to miss. I highly recommend to everyone that you grab a copy as soon as possible. Is it an easy read? No, but it's a undoubtedly a worthwhile one. I'll be shocked if this book doesn't win any awards. SHOCKED
I just finished Fingerprints of You. Wow, what a great piece of writing! I loved Lemon and was even sympathetic to her wacky mom by the end. The author did a great job presenting their tumultuous relationship and made what could have easily been a very unbelievable situation (a teenage girl going cross country against her mom’s will and refusing to return) and turned it into a very believable – heroic even – one. She brought Lemon’s depth to the surface and presented the complicated mother/daughter dynamic brilliantly. Well done! I also thought the biological father part was done superbly. She showed his true, imperfect character through Lemon’s eyes as well as Cassie’s. She is a very talented writer. Yay for realistic fiction!
A book for "young teen readers" but also for us "old adult readers" who have experienced life, searched for ourselves, or tried to discover who our parents really are. We hear the voice of the young adult, yet read the wisdom of developing maturity. The author leads us through the complicated, frequently humorous, and sometimes sad journey of Lemon's discovery; in the end, one cannot but smile at the realization that each of us, in our own way, travels the same journey.
Fingerprints of You grabs you from the first page and takes you on a heartfelt journey full of adventure. A complex but well developed story, you can't help but bond with the characters, as you experience their struggles, joy and ultimate love for each other through the ties that bind. An unconventional look at growing up, breaking free and the realization that the things we spend our lives running from are often what we will end up missing the most. Full of humor, relatable experiences, heartbreak and good times; onçe you start reading you will not be able to put it down! Looking forward to more from Mrs. Madonia, as this is a truly remarkable first book.
An amazing read for teens or adults - my new favorite recommendation for book-clubs and friends! Fresh characters you'll fall in love with and a road trip journey you'll never forget. Fingerprints of You is a wonderful coming-of-age novel filled with joy, heartache, and, ultimately, hope.
Just finished reading "Fingerprints of You" by Kristen-Paige Madonia. It's a great read for anyone, especially those that have lost someone, found someone or just went off looking for themselves. A fantastic book to finish off the summer with!!!
At 17 years old, a massive influx of thoughts and emotions often make it difficult to convey the depth and surprising strength of feelings and experiences. Paradoxically, by the time we are able to articulate ourselves genuinely, the distance of time makes it almost impossible truly recall and adequately express those same thoughts and emotions. In her debut novel, Fingerprints of You, author Kristen-Paige Madonia has managed to do just that – giving a realistic, accurate, and genuine voice to a teen in crisis. Using a journey as both a metaphorical and literal action, Madonia’s heroine Lemon sweeps the reader along as she seeks to connect the missing dots on the roadmap of her life. Pregnant and searching for a father she has never known, she embarks on a cross-country excursion with no real plan, and no promises for resolution. San Francisco serves as a stunning backdrop with its big-city feel and perfectly described inhabitants; the vast urban experience crammed in to 7x7 square miles reflects Lemon’s own immense expectations and her limitations. A colorful cast of characters helps the reader get to know Lemon intimately without distracting from her voice. The seemingly arrested development of her mother Stella, as well as the beautiful manner in which Madonia allows her to demonstrate some maturity – a metaphorical move from monotone paintings to two hues in her artistic expressions – prevents Stella from being a clichéd immature mother with a drinking problem and no hope for self-improvement. The novel moves at an appropriate clip – much like a Greyhound bus. Several stops, people getting on and off, never knowing who may sit down next to you, yet always having forward momentum. The satisfying cadence of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ song “Home” seems to accompany the tempo of Fingerprints of You, and the story remains true to its pace until it pulls up to the final destination of its last page.
Being out of college for a few years and having to be a "grown up" has made me forget about how good it feels to just get up and go, to find something out about yourself by traveling and leaving your problems behind, at least for awhile. It's about the experiences you have, the people you meet, even if you're never going to see them again. It's about how they touch your life to make you realize things about yourself you forgot existed or didn't know existed. It's about having fingerprints of experiences, as one of the characters in this book points out. This book takes me to that place again, something that I can only say a good book does. Lemon is a pregnant 17 year old who leaves her Mom for a few months, her only known family member, to travel and find out more about herself, accompanied by her best friend. The story may not be unique, but the way it's told is. I especially like the literary, music, movie and place references--it's like a first hand account style travel book memoir. Definitely read it if you think growing up has made you less deep. This book will bring you back to who you are at your core.
It's been a long time since Lemon's remembered what it was like to live in a stable and routine life when they lived with her grandmother. Named Lemon by her artistic mother for her favorite color the month of her birth, Lemon's moved most of her young seventeen years from one place to another whenever Stella decides to make a change, mostly as a result of a relationship gone bad. Unfortunately, trying to start anew is never as satisfying as initially expected, and Lemon's felt the void of friendships and stability ever since. When an afternoon rebellion with her mother's tattoo artist in a small Virginia town results in a pregnancy, she and her mother move again to an even smaller town in West Virginia. With a new best friend, Emmy, whose father was shipped off to Afghanistan, the decision to take a road trip during the winter school break becomes even more important for them both. The real reason why San Francisco was chosen though, is known only to Lemon, who decides she must meet her father before her own child is born. With quiet and contemplative moments, Fingerprints of You became a sleeper hit for me. I wasn't anticipating the tiny struggles of pain that would suddenly burst forth from the pages as Lemon tried to make sense of so many things at once: an absent, unknown father, a flighty mother, a sense of emptiness in not having a place to call home, while simultaneously finding independence and roots in a cultural city full of art and music so unlike the small towns she's used to. Kristen-Paige Madonia certainly doesn't leave anything out in this tender coming of age story, and whether it's a handwritten inscription in a book, or a road trip made cross country between best friends, it's a lesson to all that we each can make an indelible impression on another, no matter how quickly a moment may pass between people. Fingerprints of You is a multi-layered story of loss, hope, and discovery, and with San Francisco as the vibrant backdrop, the wealth of art and music at each corner is impressively vivid. Although set in contemporary times, the sights and sounds of San Francisco seemed to echo an earlier time and made me think of what I'd imagine it might have been like to be young in the 1960s, the young striving to find purpose during a time of war, a place of their own, or even just a little bit of independence amidst the routines of day-to-day life. Every generation feels this, of course, but there seemed such a marked sense of relationship between the two eras, that it beautifully blended into one for me, and I appreciated the story that much more. It's a bit minor to state, especially since it's clear I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I could so easily envision the city and key character moments, but I think just a little more editing was needed to tighten down some scenes that were too descriptive, and conversely, there didn't seem to be enough emotional insight when it came to the pregnancy, which surprisingly felt detached in just a few scenes. And part of me (the immature part) wanted Stella to get a new tattoo to cover up the one made by the man who got her daughter pregnant, but maybe it was intentional to keep that a silent piece of resolution. Ultimately, though, my quibbles are ridiculously minor in the grand scheme of the essential core of this story, which was immensely satisfying. I'd recommend this coming-of-age tale to an older YA audience especially, but all age groups in their twenties on up will find a little something that resonates with them. And like Lemon's understanding that we each make a permanent impression on each other in life, Kristen-Paige Madonia has unquestionably cemented her spot in the publishing industry world with her debut Fingerprints of You, and I eagerly await her next novel.
A coming of age story, Fingerprints of You is the story of Lemon. Growing up, Lemon was never able to really admire her mother. Stella, Lemon’s mother, moved Lemon from town to town as soon as her relationships went bad. Now, in a new town, Lemon is in trouble. Lemon is pregnant from a man that gave Stella her third tattoo. Repeating her mother’s mistakes was never what Lemon planned for. Lemon has always resented Stella for the life she led and refuses to do the same as her mother. But Lemon does not know who she really is and believes that meeting her father could give her some answers, so she and her best friend Emmy decide to go to California. I really do not like Lemon. Her mistakes are understandable because she never had a good role model, but taking a cross-country road trip when you are pregnant, have very little money, and do not have a diploma seems really irresponsible to me. Lemon has very few qualities I can admire, but I may be being too harsh on her. Fingerprints of You is very well written though and I like Madonia’s style. This book could be enjoyed by teenagers or young adults. I give it three out of five stars.