Poison Ink

Poison Ink

3.8 8
by Christopher Golden

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SAMMI, TQ, CARYN, Letty, and Katsuko are floaters. None of them fits in with any particular group at Covington High School—except each other. One night, to cement their bond, the girls decide to get matching, unique tattoos. But when Sammi backs out at the last minute, everything changes. Faster than you can say “airbrush,” Sammi is an outcast,

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SAMMI, TQ, CARYN, Letty, and Katsuko are floaters. None of them fits in with any particular group at Covington High School—except each other. One night, to cement their bond, the girls decide to get matching, unique tattoos. But when Sammi backs out at the last minute, everything changes. Faster than you can say “airbrush,” Sammi is an outcast, and soon, her friends are behaving like total strangers. When they attack Sammi for trying to break up a brawl, Sammi spies something horrible on her friends’ backs: the original tattoo has grown tendrils, snaking and curling over the girls’ entire bodies. What has that creepy tattoo artist done to her friends? And what—if anything—can Sammi do to get them back? This deliciously creepy psychological thriller is the perfect summer read.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Shari Fesko
Golden spins a tale of friendship with a horrifyingly suspenseful twist. TQ, Letty, Caryn, Katsuko, and Sammi are drifters at Covington High, going from group to group but never fitting in until they find each other. The five decide to cement their bond with matching tattoos. With no IDs, the girls are forced to choose a rundown tattoo parlor on the rough side of town, adding to Sammi's original fears of pain and parental disappointment. Creepy but magnetic tattooist Dante convinces them to use his design rather then one of their own. At the last minute Sammi bails out and everything changes at that point. Sammi's friends completely shut her out and are smoking, skipping school, and becoming the center of rumors involving hard drugs, violent fights, and abject sexuality. Discovering that her friend's tattoos are growing and changing, Sammi is sure that Dante is behind their bizarre behavior and is determined to stop him. Sammi is a very real character whose feelings of abandonment and isolation are sure to be shared by many. Golden brilliantly ties the horror of the tattoo that is slowly taking over Sammi's friend's lives and minds with the reality of life as a teenager, which is fraught with its own horrors. Sammi's parents crumbling marriage, Letty's homosexuality, and each girls' struggle to fit in are realistically handled and add substance to the horror-driven plot. Graphic violence and sexual situations make this book one to give older teen readers. Reviewer: Shari Fesko
KLIATT - Amanda MacGregor
Sammi has always been a floater, friendly with everyone at school but not really fitting in anywhere. By her junior year, though, she's made a group of close friends, other oddballs and loners, and finally feels like she belongs. The girls decide to get tattooed together, all getting the same tattoo to symbolize their friendship. When Sammi backs out, the other girls immediately turn on her. The girls' personalities totally change. Now, Sammi's former friends are drinking, cutting class, humiliating their peers, and getting into fights. When Sammi sees Letty's tattoo, she is horrified to find that it has spread and seems to be pulsating, alive. Sammi begins to wonder just what went on at mysterious Dante's strange tattoo shop. Mustering up all of her courage, Sammi breaks into the shop, and is terrified by what she finds. From what she can deduce, her friends were part of some sort of magical occult ritual, and now are under Dante's control. Despite the fact that the girls have not only turned their backs on Sammi, but also brutally beat her, Sammi knows she has to save them. The well-paced plot leaves an air of suspense hanging over every scene. Even as readers start to piece together what may be happening, nothing is for certain. Sammi's bravery is unexpected (and often foolish), and the other girls, who are no longer acting on their own accord, are always unpredictable. The violence is terribly graphic and the outcome of Dante's actions depressing. Readers looking for a chilling tale of friendship gone bad will be satisfied with this thriller. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

A fast-paced emotional thriller. High school junior Sammi and her four best friends are beautiful outcasts who formed an unbreakable bond. At least, she thought their bond was unbreakable-until she backs out of getting the friendship tattoo they all agreed upon. When Sammi's friends go from being distant to completely unlike themselves-getting into serious trouble with drugs, sex, and violent altercations-she starts to wonder if maybe there is something evil about their tattoos. Sammi tries to stop them from fighting with another group of girls, and her former friends beat her so badly that she is hospitalized. Determined to discover the truth, Sammi investigates the tattoo shop and finds frightening and disturbing links to the occult. The story has explicit language and descriptions and some violent scenes. While the motives of the tattoo-artist bad guy are a bit unclear, it's easy to get past that and go along for the ride. Sammi's interactions with her friends reflect a deeper fear about changing relationships and being alone, and throughout the book, she must also deal with her parents' strained relationship. With a likable protagonist and an eerie plot, this novel will mesmerize fans of the supernatural.-Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Magically malevolent tattoos bring destruction to a circle of high-school chums. The matching tattoos were supposed to bind Sammi to her four closest friends, but, worried about betraying her parents' trust, she backs out at the last minute. At school, her friends shun her due to her lack of a tattoo. They also act out of character: They cut classes, do drugs and fight their enemies with superhuman strength. During a fight in which her former friends injure her severely, Sammi discovers that the tattoos have expanded, taking over their bodies with pulsating lines of ink. Now it's up to Sammi to break the ink's spell. This is action-packed horror with a sidebar of romance, sure to entice those with a taste for blood and the supernatural. The pacing slows a little toward the midpoint of the book but picks up in its final quarter. Sammi's discovery of the tattoo artist's intentions is delightfully stomach-churning, leading to a satisfying, violent and sad ending. A secondary story line about racial tensions in Sammi's town neither adds to nor detracts from the story. (Horror. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

On the last Friday night of summer, Sammi Holland and the girls went downtown in search of ice cream. They planned to meet at Krueger’s Flatbread for pizza beforehand, a necessary preamble to the main event: an utter debauchery of swirl-ins and sprinkles and fudge sauce at England’s MicroCreamery. Afterward, the five of them would wander Washington Street, peeking in the windows of the candle shop, the art galleries, and the bohemian café on the corner, ending up at Cruel and Unusual Books. No way were they getting out of there without hitting the bookshop. Sammi could be very persuasive.

Downtown Covington didn’t draw a lot of teenagers. Most of their classmates from Covington High School would be at the mall tonight. But Sammi and the girls just weren’t the sort who hung out at the mall.

Unless they were going to the movies, Sammi and her friends steered clear of the Merrimack River Walk. The long, outdoor strip mall had been built less than ten years before, complete with movie megaplex, massive bookstore, and tons of chain clothing stores. On Friday and Satur- day nights, hordes of high school kids from Haverhill, Methuen, Jameson, and other nearby towns roved the sidewalks along the River Walk in gaggles, half of them talking on their cell phones or texting their friends who hadn’t come along. Like the “main drag” in old movies and TV shows, the River Walk was all about seeing and being seen—half mating ritual and half dance of supremacy.

Sammi had no interest in that kind of poseur crap, and neither did the girls she hung around with. The five of them had been oddballs and loners all their lives, until they had found each other. Now they were like sisters, and all was right with the world. Or mostly right. So tonight Sammi walked along a stretch of cobblestoned sidewalk on Washington Street with Caryn Adams.

“Come on,” she said, hooking her arm through Caryn’s and dragging her away from the window of a closed gallery. “We’re late.”

Caryn fell into step beside her, grinning. “You’re just lucky that place isn’t open. Then we’d be really late.”

“Aren’t you hungry? I’m starving.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of the ‘starving artist’? ” Caryn said. “Kind of comes with the territory.”

“Yeah, right. All those fashionistas who design dresses for the red carpet crowd, they’re starving artists. If they’re only eating carrot sticks, it isn’t because they can’t afford a decent meal.”

“No argument. But first they had to suffer. They had to get down in the trenches and fight it out with all the other ambitious artists.”

Sammi laughed. “You make it sound like war.”

Caryn glanced at her, the fading summer sunshine gleaming on her caramel skin. “There are all kinds of wars.”

Sammi blinked. She knew Caryn wanted a career in fashion desperately. Of all of her friends—of anyone she knew—Caryn had the most purpose and drive. But sometimes it verged on obsession.

“You must chill. Seriously. One of these days we’ll watch the Oscars together and they’ll ask, ‘Who are you wearing?’ and the answer will be ‘Caryn Adams.’ I know this. We all know it. But between now and then, you really have to chill. School starts on Tuesday, and tonight’s supposed to be about just being together.”

Caryn softened. “You’re right. That me, the one who was getting all tense? Just sent her home. Girl is not allowed to come out tonight.”

Sammi smiled. “Good.”

Grinning, they turned off of Washington Street into Railroad Square. Sammi and Caryn were roughly the same height—five feet three inches—and close enough in size that they could share clothes. The spaghetti-strap top Caryn had on had come from Sammi’s closet, while Sammi had pulled on a couple of tank tops, going for the layered look. Caryn wore sneakers, but Sammi stuck with the strappy sandals she’d worn most of the summer.

They walked alongside the concrete wall of the elevated train platform toward the old brick factory building that housed Krueger’s Flatbread. Most of Covington had been mills and factories once upon a time, like so many cities built north of Boston on the Merrimack River. In the past few years, the downtown had undergone serious renovation, the old buildings gutted and reclaimed for apartments, offices, and storefront shops. Much cooler than any mall.

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Poison Ink 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Dtreehugger95 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't jumping up and down when I finished this book. I mean it was good and then towards the ending it got really good. but how it ended was disappointing... I mean everyone likes a happy ending??? Right? but I reccommend this book to anyone who is just looking for an easy read. :P
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought that i wouldnt like the book but it turns out this book is amazing. There are twist and turns on every page it leaves you hanging till the next chapter. This book is great for any one some violencr so i recommend it to teens and older only.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Sammi is one of those girls who doesn't really fit in with any of the groups in high school. She gets along with a lot of people, but not enough that she feels as if she really "belongs" with most of them. She describes herself as a "floater", floating between cliques but never attaching to any one.

TQ, Caryn, Letty, and Katsuko are Sammi's closest allies. They aren't really friends, or even a "group," just bound together by the one thing they have in common - the fact that they don't belong with any other group.

One night, the girls decide to get matching tattoos, as a symbol of their bond. The only place that a group of underage girls can get a tattoo is in a creepy studio run by an even creepier tattoo artist named Dante. Dante creates a one-of-a-kind symbol for the girls, one that, he explains, symbolizes strength and friendship, among other things.

The girls eagerly line up for their chance to be bound together. All of them except for Sammi, who worries about the cleanliness of the salon, as well as how her parents would react to her getting a tattoo. Things aren't exactly going smoothly at home and Sammi isn't eager to be the cause of more problems. When her turn arrives, Sammi runs, leaving the other girls feeling betrayed.

Sammi comes up with a plan to atone for the abandonment of her friends. After her plan fails she finds that her former friends are turning on her. Not only have they become bitter and hateful towards her, but Sammi realizes that they have completely changed. Her formerly quiet, "floater" friends are now the most talked about, explosive, aggressive, and cruelest girls in school. They have no regard for anyone else, or themselves.

Sammi can't understand what has caused her friends to change so drastically. When she is assaulted by her former friends she realizes how horrible the situation really is. She catches sight of the tattoo. It has grown and spread across her friend's back.

Now she has to figure out what Dante has done to her friends, and how she can save them.

Christopher Golden has written a book that is a realistic representation of the high school social scene and yet adds a deliciously twisted storyline of how good girls can go bad. POISON INK is fun and intense at the same time and it all leads up to a fantastic final showdown. You won't be disappointed with this one.