HarperTeen, release date: 29 April 2008
The first chapter of Ink Exchange got right under my skin, made me want to turn away but held me fast, made me grateful for living a good life, made me want to grab Leslie and bring her to live with me, and even made me consider, not for the first time, being a foster parent.
But not because of sex– because of drugs, because of bad parenting.
This is the story of Leslie: two years ago her mother left, and since then, her father turned into an alcoholic, absentee parent, and her brother– her brother embraced his every personal demon, first by doing drugs, then by handing his sister over to his dealer and “friends” when he got in too deep to pay for what he was using.
Leslie is smart and tough. She doesn’t weep for the old days, but she does miss them. She wants a normal life. She knows she can’t have a normal life without money or school, which is why she works evenings and weekends waiting tables. Leslie is a survivor. For all these reasons, she is chosen by the ruler of the Dark Court for the ink exchange, a ritual that will bind her to him, and allow him to use her to feed his people, ultimately taking Leslie down the same path of having to choose to survive.
As with Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange is about a mortal chosen by the faeries and the resulting changes made to the humans and faeries connected to this mortal. Ink Exchange takes a hard look at addiction, and Marr doesn’t gloss over the tough stuff. But that’s what I love about Marr’s writing– she doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of life, and that’s why her writing reminds me of Judy Blume, Janet Fitch and Toni Morrison– authors who are not afraid to talk about the tough stuff, authors who make me think about my life.
Ink Exchange is also a story about temptation and the consequences of indulging that temptation. In the main story we have Leslie, fixated on symbolizing her independence by getting a tattoo. And then we have Niall, and the story of his temptations unfolds as his attraction to Leslie grows stronger, beyond his control.
It is also a story about addiction, and the choices we make to cope with our addictions.
But mostly, Ink Exchange is the story about one girl and her recovery from rape. The rape scene is not in the book, it is in the past, taking place parallel to the events of Wicked Lovely, and the story starts with the survivor’s choice to not let the rape define her. But this is not a choice a survivor makes one time only. As Marr so succinctly embodies with Ink Exchange, this is a choice made every day.
This is a book I would have loved to have read in my youth. It meets all the requirements my teachers wanted– literary, social issues– but brings everything I’ve ever looked for in a good book– strong heroine, fantasy, contemporary setting.
Ink Exchange will get under your skin, make you uncomfortable, and in the end you’ll be changed for it. Kinda like getting a tattoo. *g*
Rating: A- I thought the ending dragged out a little too long (though I admit this is more my perception than any fault of the story), and we never did find out who the culprit was in a certain subplot. Marr’s writing is wonderful– her style is perfect for these faery stories. The characters are perfect for telling this story– anything less, and the story would have been ruined. I would have liked to have seen more from Niall. He disappears in the last third of the book. I had thought he would be more integral to the ending. As for the ending itself, it wasn’t a Happily Ever After, and good thing. It wouldn’t have worked. However, it is a satisfying ending. It’s exactly what needed to happen.