Kellie Brooks has always had a family that looks a little unusual. Her hippie mom and tattoist step-dad are part of it, but she also has an adopted older sister and a younger half-brother. Then there’s her dad, who seems to always want Kellie to achieve more than she is. Kellie feels completely average and perpetually stuck in between her family. Her place in her family is even further unsteady after her sister meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with people who are much cooler than Kellie is used to. When she reconnects with Oliver, an older guy she hooked up with at a party, she realizes that relationships are work–and they can get intense pretty fast. How can she balance everything in her life when it all seems so precarious to begin with?
Fans of Amy Spalding’s sweet, contemplative The Reece Malcolm List won’t be disappointed by her follow-up novel about family, different kinds of relationships, and finding yourself. Ink is Thicker Than Water cements Spalding as an author who knows her contemporary YA stuff, and this thoughtful and authentic novel is sure to satisfy fans of realistic fiction. Memorable, funny, and heartfelt, this is an excellent addition to any YA collection.
This is a small novel, but it works with its material well. Nothing about Kellie’s experiences are exactly earth-shattering, but everything she experiences is authentic to her situation. She’s a completely normal girl, dealing with normal life stuff, and it’s exceedingly well done. Spalding is a good enough writer that everything Kellie experiences helps shape her view of herself, her family, and her role within the context of the world around her.
There’s great care taken with characters here, and while readers might not always understand all of their choices (just like Kellie doesn’t), there’s never a moment where it feels inauthentic. Spalding isn’t afraid to let her characters screw up and be flawed, and that makes for a richer reading experience.
A truly standout novel about change and growing up on the small scale, this is one that opens itself up to great discussion. Highly recommended.
Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding. Entangled Publishing: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review via NetGalley.