Intriguing, romantic, and wholly original, Amy Spalding's sophomore novel is the perfect blend of humor and heart. Find out why Trish Doller called it full of "compassion, humor, love, and pitch-perfect authenticity."
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 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.
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.
About the Author
Amy Spalding is also the author of The Reece Malcolm List. She grew up outside of St. Louis and now lives in Los Angeles with two cats and a dog. She works in marketing and does a lot of improv.
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Ink Is Thicker Than Water
By Amy Spalding
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Amy Spalding
All rights reserved.
Where are you? I need you. (If you have time.)
I shove my phone into my pocket instead of responding to the very unlike-my-sister text Sara has just sent. My best friend is in emergency mode, and I am best-friending.
"But if what Chelsea heard was true, why would he be talking to her?" Kaitlyn stares at herself in the bathroom mirror and then spins away from her reflection. "We're not even supposed to be here, and if he's just going to talk to her all night —"
"No one cares that we're here," I say, even though I have no proof of that fact. I'm not letting Kaitlyn panic. "It's a party. People go to parties. We can be people who go to parties now. Or at least bathrooms of parties."
"Ha, ha." She gets her phone out of her purse and checks it. For what, I don't know, but whatever she's hoping for isn't there. "Seriously, Kellie, what am I supposed to do now?"
Here's the thing: I don't really know. But I will be The Friend with The Plan. "Probably we should get out of the bathroom. And you should just go walk in his sightline."
"'Walk in his sightline'?"
"Kaitlyn," I say like this is all so obvious and I'm not just making things up as I go. "He supposedly told a bunch of people you were hot. Go be hot in front of him. He'll stop talking to Brandy about whatever popular people bond over. He will make out with you."
Kaitlyn peers even more intensely into the mirror. "You promise?"
If I'm honest, I'll admit that lately I don't exactly love gazing into mirrors where both Kaitlyn and I are reflected back. It's been years since our bodies had first gotten the memo about grown-up things like boobs and hips, but now that we're well into being sixteen, things seemed to have settled, and I guess we're just going to look like this.
That memo circulating in Kaitlyn's hormones must have used lots of references to the magazines she reads (and I don't because Mom thinks they set bad examples and expectations for teenage girls). Kaitlyn emerged from puberty with a tiny waist and the perfect bra size: not flat-chested but not so developed people make up unfounded rumors about her experience level. Meanwhile, my hormones had taken that memo very literally. Boobs, check, hips, check, two of each and all in the right places.
A renaissance painting for Kaitlyn. Artless puberty for me.
Not that I'm Ugly McUggerstein or anything. Up until very recently, it balanced out, because Kaitlyn always had very normal brown hair that just sort of hung there, the way normal hair does. I'm pretty sure my hair's texture had up until my birth only been seen on lions' manes and expensive stuffed animals, but at least Mom dyes it for me. Currently, it's flamey red and combed through with enough vanilla-scented styling product to behave. From enough of a distance, I absolutely look like I have beautiful, flowing, naturally vanilla-scented red hair.
Lately, though, Kaitlyn has been taking the Amex her parents gave her to make up for getting divorced or whatever to a fancy salon where she emerges with sleek caramel-colored hair that rests above her shoulders with a thoughtful little flip. The first time I saw the new style I told her it looked like angels had patted the ends into place with a flap of their wings. Yeah, that was a joke, but it really did look that flawless. No one prepares you for waking up to realize your best friend who grew up with you step by step and side by side is suddenly, okay, hot.
Also, I should clarify that I hate that I hate this. I am not the kind of person who's ever cared about being the hottest or coolest or most congenial or whatever girls are supposed to get hung up over. So having up my hackles because Kaitlyn now ranks above me in these categories isn't exactly a shining achievement for me.
"I promise," I say, even though I know it's dangerous making promises about another person's actions. This one's as safe a bet as you can get, though. Of course Garrett will want to make out with Kaitlyn! I start to open the bathroom door, but my phone buzzes again in my pocket.
It's another text from Sara: K? Are you there?
"Go!" I ignore the text, put my hands on Kaitlyn's shoulders, and steer her toward the door. "Conquer!"
"Hang on." She pulls the strap of her (black, lacy) bra out from her shirt (also black, lacy). "You saw this, right? It's okay? Like, if we get that far?"
"Trust me. Boys will be happy to just see your underwear. I wear frigging boy shorts, and I've had no complaints." I say it so easily by now that it's basically no longer a lie. "Seriously, go do this."
Kaitlyn gives me a hug before flinging open the door of the bathroom. I follow her out, but since I'm only at this party for moral support, I now have nothing to do. I find an open spot on the couch in the living room of whoever's house this is and get my phone back out. r u ok?? I finally text Sara. kinda stuck at this party right now. I don't add that Sara's never not okay because it's probably not nice to make people justify their not-being-okay-ness.
Sara texts back fast: Sorry about that. I sounded so dramatic! I'm fine.
This is a Cool Person party, and Kaitlyn and I are definitively not Cool People. I figured I'd be exerting a lot of energy trying to just blend in, but it doesn't actually look any different than any other party I've been to. No one's circling up to take a gulp from the golden chalice of popularity.
"Hey!" Jessie Weinberg, a girl I kind of know from my Literature of an Emerging America class, sits down next to me as I'm texting Sara to make sure she's actually fine. Ticknor Day School isn't big enough not to know everyone — if not by name, at least by face. "I just wanted to tell you that I read your piece and it was hilarious."
"My English paper on Mark Twain?" It does not seem possible for a short biographical assignment to be hilarious.
"Oh, no, your thing for the Ticknor Voice. I know it's not public yet, but Jennifer couldn't shut up about how funny it was."
"Thanks," I say even though I hadn't been trying to be funny. When I saw the flyers for our school newspaper's op/ed column, it just felt right. I've been just fine not caring too much about anything for a long time, but that's starting to feel like it's a size too small for me now. I worked as hard as I could on my submission. But I guess if it's funny, whatever works! "Wait, does that mean I'm going to be the new op/ed writer?"
Jessie makes a face like she's thinking, awkward! "I probably shouldn't talk about it."
I make the awkward! face, too. This makes her laugh, so I guess whatever's up with the paper isn't too big of a deal. And it's so weird I care. I was convinced not caring too much about stuff kept you sane, but lately this tiny voice in my head says it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
... Not a literal voice, of course. I'm trying out for an extracurricular, not developing a second personality.
"Kellie." Kaitlyn runs into the room and yanks me to my feet. "We have to go."
"Hey, Kaitlyn," Jessie says.
"Hi, Jessie," Kaitlyn says, then, "Bye, Jessie," and I'm pulled out of the room and then the front door. "Let's go. Tonight's the worst. Tonight is a disaster."
"Okay." I don't ask anything, just get her to my car as she starts crying. We sit there for a while in the darkness, and when my phone buzzes again, I leave it and wait.
"He didn't even say hi to me," Kaitlyn says finally. "And then he started making out with Brandy. Like I wasn't even there or didn't even matter."
"He's an idiot, then," I say. "Brandy's pretty, but you're ... pretty. And that whole crowd is made up of idiots. You could do way better."
Now that the silence is broken, I take the opportunity to check my phone. Yes, I'm sure I'm fine. We're at South City Diner if you want to meet us after your party.
"Want to meet up with Sara and her friends?" I ask even though I already know the answer and am already turning on the car.
"Help me fix my makeup," she says.
"Your makeup's unfixable! Just go with the badass smeary-eyed look. It works on you."
Kaitlyn laughs and flicks me in the head — ow — and hopefully that means stupid Garrett Miller is forgotten for now. And also hopefully the crowd Sara's with at the diner includes her boyfriend and his friends, and Kaitlyn can find a new distraction to get her through the evening.
I drive east on Highway 44 all the way to South Grand, where it feels like I spend as much time as I do in Webster Groves, the suburb of St. Louis where we live. Parking can be crowded, especially on weekends, but I'm so used to the side streets that I zip around and slide into a spot on Hartford almost immediately. When we walk in, the diner's so packed I can't even spot Sara, but Kaitlyn does and pulls me over to the table crowded with, yes, Sara, Sara's boyfriend Dexter, and a bunch of other guys.
"Good evening, ladies," Dexter says, affecting an old-timey accent. "How is this beautiful Saturday treating you and yours?"
Sara and I tell each other almost everything, but we don't really talk about guys — who knows why — and so that was only one of the reasons I was surprised when she started going out with Dexter. Wasn't my perfect pre-prelaw sister way too serious for stuff like boys and dating when she was studying her butt off and worrying about college applications? And if I had been forced into describing the kind of guy Sara would end up with, I would not have said redheaded hipster hottie. But then all of a sudden, Dexter was a thing.
Dexter is a senior at the all-boys school Chaminade, where he wears his uniform tie slightly askew and heads up both the Young Democrats Club and the Poetry in Action Club, the latter of which he'd also founded. (No one really seems to know what Poetry in Action actually is. Poetry seems like a pretty passive activity. Sometimes Dexter recites Yeats really loud and in public. Is that it?)
Anyway, I guess it works because they are serious, about each other and about the stuff in their lives. They study together and talk nonstop about college and go to lectures and museums and foreign films. Even when Dexter's doing goofy accents or shouting poetry at the stars, Sara looks at him like it all makes sense to her. The lesson I take from this is that love is finding someone who thinks everything about you that's weird is actually hot.
"Make room for Kellie and Kaitlyn," Sara says, and the guy on her other side jumps at her command by shoving in two chairs for us. Kaitlyn's immediately eyeing the other prospects, but I stare Sara down until she notices.
"What's up with you?" she asks like she didn't send me two emergency-ish texts less than an hour ago.
"You're sure you're okay?"
"Don't I look okay?" she asks with a smile. And of course she does, because Sara is basically two steps shy of a supermodel. Tall and blond and the kind of cheekbones that people comment on. Four separate times people have asked Sara if they saw her in a Macy's ad. (No, but that seems like a pretty good compliment.)
"We can talk later if you want," I say even though that's the kind of thing she says to me and never vice versa. Sara's only a year older than me, but she's got it together.
"Sure." She turns her attention back to Dexter, who's in the midst of some elaborate story about a fight he witnessed between two stray cats. Kaitlyn's talking with the guy on her other side, so I finally glance all the way around our table.
Across from me, sitting just a few people down — like it's normal! — is Oliver.
Oliver! Dexter's brother. Who knows a lot about me. Who knows things I don't want anyone else knowing. Who I hoped would have found a way to text me even though I'd never given him my number and even though the thought made me a little terrified.
He raises his eyebrows at me and grins. And I don't know what I'm doing any more than I did back in May when everything happened — or, well, didn't happen. But I can't help it. I grin back.CHAPTER 2
My plans the next morning are the usual: brunch with Mom, my stepdad Russell, Sara, and Finn. Since the shop's closed on Sundays, it's Family Day, and I'm completely fine with that. I guess now plans also include replaying in my head every time Oliver grinned or raised his eyebrows at me last night (seven total, by my count).
Still, I'm looking forward to brunch. Seeing Oliver last night made me so jumpy I was afraid to eat and just stole some fries from someone else's plate. But when I walk downstairs expecting pancakes and eggs or at least bagels, what I see instead is Dad.
"There she is!" he says. It's the only way he ever greets me, like I'm a contestant on the game show in his mind. "Hey there, kiddo."
I figure if he's doling out normal salutation-type stuff, probably no one is dead or maimed or whatever tragic event would bring him here. "Hey, Dad."
"Hi, baby." Mom pops into the front room, right next to Dad, and I try for the ten billionth time to comprehend that they'd ever been married. Photos and my own memories tell me they were, but it still feels like fabricated history, a novel based on actual events and not the nonfiction it is.
It's a casual day for Dad, which means he's in shiny black dress shoes and perfectly pressed black slacks, with a gray shirt and a patterned blue tie that pops exactly how all the fashion magazines say a tie is supposed to. It's a casual day for Mom, too; she's wearing ragged jeans with a black sweater of Russell's that features a little skull and crossbones on each shoulder. Since she's inside, her feet are bare, chipped red manicure showing as well as the black line drawings of flowers tattooed across the tops of both her feet.
"How was your Saturday night?" Mom asks.
"It was fine. Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine." Dad kisses my cheek, smelling — like always — of coffee and the spearmint gum he chews obsessively since he quit smoking when I was nine. "In fact, I'm on my way out. See you this weekend."
When I was little, I'd cling to him whenever we said good-bye, but now it's just life. "Bye, Dad."
He leaves, which is for the best because I always worry the universe will explode if he spends much time in this house. Well, the universe or Mom's brain, and I don't see myself surviving either one of those catastrophes.
"Why was Dad here?"
"It's nothing," she says as Finn barrels into the room wearing Mom's black leather jacket, which hangs past his knees, and a black ski mask covering his face.
"I'm a pirate!" he shouts.
"No, you're a ninja," I tell him. Finn always gets those confused. "Also ninjas don't shout. You have to be super sneaky."
He nods solemnly before racing up the stairs and letting out some kind of war cry. Well, I tried.
Even Mom says I'm biased, but I'm positive Finn is the cutest kid in the world. I've seen hundreds of photos of myself, and I definitely didn't hold a candle. His hair is sandy brown like Russell's, he got Mom's perfect little upturned nose (which genetics conveniently didn't give to me), and big blue eyes (I'd at least gotten those), and when he smiles he somehow looks just like Mom and Russell at once. Total cute overload.
"What happened to brunch?" I ask Mom as she sorts through the mail on the front table even though nothing new could have come today. Mom might be sort of old — she just turned forty-three — but she's the kind of lady you totally believe when you hear she'd once been a cheerleader. Still blond, still smiles all the time, still pulls off a high ponytail, still, you know ... cheers for things. With Mom, no achievement is too small for hugs and congrats. (And she can still turn a pretty mean cartwheel, if you beg.)
"What? Oh, right, sure. Russell's out picking something up." She turns back to the mail like it's urgent when in reality it piles up there constantly.
I run upstairs and down the hall to Sara's room, where Finn is jumping on the bed while she's curled up on one corner of it doing homework. From here it looks like physics, but considering I'm three levels of science behind her, I'm probably not the best judge. Still. Physics on a Sunday morning.
Sara is really good with numbers. Honestly, she's good at everything, but numbers especially. Normally when people say things like that they just mean someone's good at math, but the point is that she's good at something useful. When we moved into the big house down the street from the old house, Sara knew how many boxes each room would take. It probably doesn't sound that exciting, nothing like knowing how many jelly beans are in a giant jar and then winning a prize, but way more useful.
I'm not good at many things that are useful, a fact Mom delights in telling me. It's not that she's disappointed — no, her parents had always told her the same thing, which she bought into for a long time. She says, "Kellie, baby, I bought into that, can you believe it?" and I actually can't. No matter how many times she tells the story, I can't believe Mom trained to be a paralegal and went to work every day in a jacket and skirt and the scary flesh-tone pantyhose with tasteful pumps, until the day she realized she was miserable. "I ripped myself free of a nylon hose existence," she likes to say, which I thought was a figurative saying until the day we were packing to move into the new house and Mom actually found the torn pair of hose. Mom hangs on to the weirdest stuff.
Excerpted from Ink Is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding. Copyright © 2013 Amy Spalding. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I previously read Amy Spalding's book The Reece Malcolm List and enjoyed not only the story, but also her style of writing. After finding out she had written another book and reading the synopsis, I knew I wanted to check it out. I enjoyed the story line with the hippie mom and stepdad who were tattoo artists, the mixed family dynamic, and the adoption angle, but I loved more than any of it Kellie herself. Kellie's personality, as well as her inner rants and thought processes and her perfectly imperfect attitude are what make the book such an entertaining read. Kellie not only discovers things about herself in this coming of age novel, but she discovers the deeper meaning of family, friendship, and the things that are most important in life. Spalding addresses family, relationship, and honesty issues, as well as the implications of judging others. As a character, I loved Kellie's humor, which added such an entertaining aspect to the story. Oliver is the love interest in the book. Though he did not really "wow" me, he does have his own secrets. These secrets have shaped Oliver into the person that he is, fitting the theme of the book well. Sara, Kellie's sister, has always been her confidant and friend, and they have shared a close relationship that begins to fall apart around the whole birth parent issue. Her relationship with her best friend also falls apart as peer pressure and popularity become factors. These are also things Kellie works through in the book. The ending was very cute and wrapped things up nicely. Overall, Ink is Thicker Than Water is a fun and entertaining story, and I did enjoy it.
Ink is Thicker Than Water had all the ingredients for a book I should have love and related to: family drama, sister relationships, cute boys named Oliver, tattoo shops. Sadly it fell short of expectations. The book lacked the necessary character development and emotional depth to keep me invested in the story. Overall it was just plain boring. The writing itself was fairly simplistic. There was a lot of telling, not a lot of showing and a few phrases that were way over-used, but it wasn’t completely irredeemable. Even the plot, while lacking originality, still could have resulted in a decent book if the characters had been been better developed. Kellie is the quintessential middle child, stuck between her adopted, over-achieving sister and her younger half-brother, whom she views as the apple of her mom and step-dad’s eye. Early in the story Kellie gets ditched by her childhood best friend who starts hanging out with the popular crowd at school and her sister decides she wants to spend time with her birth mother, leaving Kellie feeling isolated at school and at home, the catalyst for what is a fairly typical coming-of-age tale. Kellie makes new friends, she dives head first into a relationship with a guy she’d almost had sex with before the events of the book started, and has to figure out where she fits in. And through it all I was just bored, bored, confused, bored. The plot seemed to lack direction, with too many threads that were sloppily tied together. I especially thought the stuff with Oliver and his past was very unnecessary and made an already squicky romance that much worse. I just couldn’t connect with the characters or care about what happened to them. It was kinda like reading about a cast of paper dolls. Bland cardboard cutouts who lacked any real emotion. I was either indifferent to the characters, or in the case of Sara and Kaitlin, just outright disliked them. Despite everything that didn’t work for me, I do have to say that I did like the ending of the book a lot. I thought that the moment between Kellie, Sara and their mom was very sweet. I also really enjoyed the very minor characters-Kellie’s friends that she made on the school paper, her step-dad, and Oliver’s brother. They added a much needed spark of life to an otherwise dull cast of characters. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Good coming of age story. Kellie is the middle child of divorced parents. Although she feels like she's always stuck in the middle of what is a complicated family, she's relatively happy - she has a stable, if a bit quirky family, a crush on a college guy and she gets to do about anything she feels like doing. Her mother is a hippie-type who decided to embrace her true self and is open and honest with her children. Her adopted sister is her complete opposite and now that she's found her birth mother their relationship crumbles. She also has a little half-brother, who I enjoyed tremendously, and a stepfather who owns his own tattoo shop. Taking this family dynamic into account, it's no wonder that at times Kellie feels overwhelmed and a little lost. Amy Spalding did a wonderful job in drawing me into the story by letting me get to know Kellie and by making her inner musings quirky and enjoyable. However, the author somehow managed to lose me somewhere in the middle of the story. What with all the things that were happening at once, I didn't know in which direction to focus on. There was her sister's knowledge of her birth mother, Kellie's best friend becoming part of the popular crowd and Kellie's "romance" with Oliver. I found it the situation between Kellie and her sister to be an interesting dynamic. It added a lot more depth to Kellie's feelings of not connecting to her family. I wish I could have gotten to know more of her sister, but as it was it was interesting and enjoyable. Then there was the 'romance'. I have to use that word carefully, because for me it wasn't a romance at all. Kellie and Oliver's connection was non-existent in my eyes. They hooked-up. In my opinion, they didn't engage in enough meaningful dialogue and what they shared didn't allude to any type of developing romance. I did enjoy some of their interactions, I just wished I could have gotten to see their 'hook-up' leading into something more meaningful and real. Thankfully, the story wasn't a total loss. Amy Spalding did an amazing job in bringing to the page the confusion and angst associated with the teenage years. I enjoyed getting to know Kellie, her voice and her emotions. In addition, I enjoyed the way she presented the secondary characters. I loved Kellie's mother, she was real. And her little brother? Adorable! All in all, not what I expected but good nonetheless. Ink is Thicker than Water was a coming of age story about a young girl finding herself among the chaos of her family and the new situations that are thrown her way. I received this title from the publisher in exchange of my honest review.
Earlier this year I bought The Reece Malcolm List on the excellent recommendation of several people and was thoroughly enamored with Amy Spalding's writing style. I was excited to discover she would have a second book coming out this year, Ink is Thicker Than Water, and when it showed up on NetGalley I couldn't request it fast enough. I am happy to say that it is another truly wonderful read. It is just so lovely to find an author who can write stories that are real, entertaining, and full of heart all at the same time. This is Kellie's story, but it is also the story of her whole family and that is probably my favorite thing about Spalding's books so far. They show a greater whole, and I love the way she treats family. Kellie has a lot going on in her life. Many of the relationships that have sustained her and fulfilled her are changing in scary ways and she doesn't know how to cope with it. She often compares herself unfavorably to the people around her and I appreciate how that was done. Kellie's voice is real in a way few authors can get right, vulnerable and confident in turns just as any girl really is. Kellie's relationship and interactions with her family are by far the best thing about this novel for me, and really the heart of what it is about. Spalding portrays the messy chaos and vulnerability that come with loving and living with people we sometimes don't like or agree with. An outsider would say Kellie has a "good" family and she does. Yet all families are messy because there is no other way for a group of individuals so closely tied through history, squabbles, disasters, and triumph to be. Our family sees us at our worst, and that is demonstrated in a very authentic way through Kellie's story. Kellie's relationships with every member of her family and how they affect her and she affects them are integral in the telling of this story. The relationship with her sister was fascinating for me as a reader, and sometimes horribly uncomfortable. I suddenly felt like I was seeing my relationship with my own sister through her perspective. Some of Kellie and Sara's conversations could have come from us when we were in high school (me being Sara) and I sort of felt the need to call and apologize. Then there was Kellie's romance with Oliver, which I love is not the focal point of the story but still an important part. In many ways he is Kellie's coping mechanism through all of this, and yet I still can't help but root for them.They have a great dynamic and I like that he has plenty of issues of his own, but is also learning to deal with them. I also appreciate the frank and realistic way Spalding dealt with their choices regarding their sexual relationship. Yay for girls having agency, boys respecting that, and couples talking. What I really like about this is that it took them time to get to the point where all three of those were in complete working order. They are still young and learning , but I love how they were trying to do it all right. This is a book that is not heavy on plot. It is about character and relationships most of all. I love books like this, especially when they do it with realism but also humor and hope. I have to add that I adored to the core of my being the character of Adelaide, Kellie's new friend. Her email address is a reference to Guys and Dolls, which makes her awesome in and of itself, but she gives great advice too even if she is a little strange and intense. Amy Spalding has earned a place as an auto-buy author for me now. I will gladly trust her and read anything she has to offer in the future. I received an e-galley form the publisher, Entangled Teen, via NetGalley. Ink is Thicker Than Water is available for purchase on December 3.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Kellie is dealing with a lot: her sister is distancing herself from the family, her best friend has suddenly stopped speaking to her, her father wants her to be more like her studious sister, she has a new boyfriend, she’s started working at her mom and stepfather’s shop, and she’s joined the school newspaper and made a whole group of friends there. That’s a lot of changes for one person in such a short time, but Kellie takes it all in stride. Mostly. Families in YA are so often absent, but Kellie has an entire family: mom, stepfather, sister, brother, and stepfather. Every one of them is present in the book. I like Kellie’s family a lot, with the exception of her father Clayton. He obviously favors Kellie’s sister Sara because she gets good grades and goes the the right private school, and he’s unfair to a much more laid-back Kellie. Kellie isn’t a bad student; she’s just not an overachiever. The middle of the road is fine (to use one of her favorite words) with her. She doesn’t knock herself out to get the grades that would impress her father because that’s now what’s important to her. She hasn’t figured her path out yet, but that’s okay. She’s only a junior in high school and she has time. Kellie’s mom is an example of that. When married to Kellie’s dad, she was a straight-laced paralegal. Since their divorce, she’s become a tattoo artist and, like Kellie, she’s a more laid-back person. She values Kellie as much as she does Sara, and even though she initially doesn’t want Kellie to work in the tattoo shop, she eventually relents and gives her a chance. Kellie has an interesting relationship with Oliver. She almost had sex with him on the day they met, months ago, but stopped herself and hasn’t seen him since, until she runs into him again with his brother (Sara’s boyfriend). The new relationship is important to Kellie, but it’s not her entire focus. She turns down invitations from Oliver to hang out with her newspaper friends and to work at her mom’s shop and she invites him over while she’s babysitting her brother but she plays with Finn while Oliver studies. To be honest, I didn’t really get the “Oliver is overly clingy and wants to take up ALLLLLLLLL my time!!!” vibe that Kellie suddenly decides is an issue about 85% of the way into the book. I feel like that came out of nowhere, although there are small hints earlier on — mostly comments from other people — that he has an underlying issue. It feels, to me, like Kellie is looking for something to be wrong in their relationship and when she discovers what that issue is, she flips out. She and Oliver don’t spend all their time together, but he doesn’t give her grief about the time she spent with her new friends or babysitting her brother either. It’s only natural that he wants to spend time with her, so Kellie’s realization that Oliver wanted more from her just seemed a little contrived. Up until that point, I thought they had a pretty good relationship and that she even goes about deciding to have sex with him in a healthy way. As Kellie’s sister starts spending more time with her newly-found biological mother, Kellie is left behind and feels resentful and abandoned. It’s interesting to me to see this story told from the point of view of the sister being left out and not the one experiencing meeting her bio mom (and later her father) for the first time. Ink is Thicker Than Water is actually Amy Spalding’s first book, but The Reece Malcom List was published first. Although I liked The Reece Malcom List, I think Ink is Thicker Than Water is a stronger book, with better, more likable characters.
I adored <i>The Reece Malcolm List</i> , Amy Spalding’s first book, and I am happy to say that I loved <i>Ink is Thicker Than Water</i> just as much. I found the book to be so lovely, mainly because I loved the main character, Kellie, and related to her. Kellie is at the point in high school where she has to start figuring out her future. She’s been making personal changes in her life, figuring out what she likes and who she wants to be. Throughout the book Kellie has to deal with a new relationship, friendship problems, and her sister disappearing from her life. In some books bringing so many issues together would make the story seem too busy, but Amy Spalding brings multiple issues together beautifully. Beyond Kellie, I also loved her big blended family, especially her mom and stepdad who are tattoo artists. Amy Spalding can write nuanced characters like no one’s business. Kellie’s dad and her sister are characters who you really dislike at times, but you can also empathize with them in a way that even Kellie can’t. Kellie’s love interest is also complicated: a lovely guy, but a character whose secrets may be troubling. I liked how he wasn’t the cookie cutter perfect guy. Basically, if you like contemporary YA books about family and friendship, about navigating relationships of all kinds while at one of the most confusing times of life?--Definitely be sure to pick up <i>Ink is Thicker Than Water</i> . I adored every aspect of it.
After loving The Reece Malcolm List earlier this year, Amy Spalding earned a place on my auto-buy list. Family relationships have never been as intriguing as they are in Spalding’s hands. Plus, her characters are artistic, witty and quirky. INK’s book title refers to Kellie’s family business, a tattoo shop, and looks at what it means to be a family. Is ink thicker than water? I like Amy Spalding’s YA books because they are such well rounded coming of age stories, with complex relationships, style, and heart. The family relationships are unconventional but at the same time totally normal as well. Her mom and stepdad run a tattoo shop and are half-vegan, creative, and hippieish, but have traditional values as well. The sisters Kellie and Sara are just a year apart and are very close. The fact that Sara wants to connect with her birth mother feels like a slap to Kellie, who is protective of her mom. Everyone is supportive of Sara and understands that this is what she needs to do, but it still rocks the family foundation. Kellie is also dealing with the gradual loss of her BFF Kaitlyn, who ditches her for a more popular clique. It’s realistic to see alliances change in high school as interests change, and their experience feels authentic. It’s also refreshingly different for Kellie to have a new group with the newspaper crew, led by the efficient, intellectual Adelaide. I wouldn’t mind Adelaide getting her own book. Some of the humor comes in the form of Kellie’s op-ed pieces, where she riffs on meatless options in the school cafeteria (not) and the manure smells of the school courtyard. That she has a knack for writing gives her a confidence boost, something that extends to other parts of Kellie’s life. I got so attached to the stories and characters that I was sad to let them go at the end. The ending is hopeful but a little open ended. I like when endings aren’t neat and tidy but at the same time I wanted just a bit more resolution. INK is smart, fresh and real, and a quick, entertaining read. I like that it doesn’t go for over the top dramatics to get the point across but feels true. The dialogue is spot-on and witty, and Spalding doesn’t talk down to her readers. The sex-positive message is a bonus too as is the strong female characterization. If you loved The Reece Malcolm List you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of INK.
Having read another of Spalding's book I knew that I really wanted to give this one a try as well. Spalding seems to have a knack for bringing out the realness in her characters and in the situations that they are put in. She doesn't hold anything back and just lets it all hang loose and lets it fly. This was not only a great coming of age story but a great story about the family dynamic as well. I really loved Kellie. She didn’t' have it all figured out, quite the opposite in fact but she rolled with it. She didn't overreact when difficult things came her way. She wasn't full of angst even though she very well could have been and most of all, she liked who she was (even though she was still figuring all of that out) and she loved her family fiercely. And gosh did I love her family. Her mom and step dad where just..well, they were pretty fabulous. So loving and nurturing even when things got tough and they did get tough. No one in this story is perfect and no one has anything figured out but they all love each other and they all care about one another and that is what mattered most. What matters most in all families,m in all our lives is to know that we are loved and that someone has our back and they did, they all had each other's back and I loved that about this story. Spalding has once again created something special and unique and something real. She doesn't hold back the punches, she digs right into the nitty gritty of families, of high school and of relationships and she makes it all realistic and she makes it all work beautifully.