Thursday, 14 February 2013

Red Ink - M's review

Red Ink by Julie Mayhew

I really liked the cover of Red Ink and I really liked the story. It’s grittier and more intriguing than its blurb (or even its first page), and I couldn’t put it down.

Red Ink by Julie Mayhew. Cover art & photos by Jet Purdie and Jan Bielicki
Fifteen year old Melon lived with her single mum who has been killed in an accident. Her mum’s boyfriend, Paul, has moved in as her ‘foster parent’. Melon has social workers and therapists all trying to help her through it all but of course, she finds this actually makes her feel worse. Melon is mostly angry at her mum, and while she is grieving, she’s trying to figure out why her beautiful, Greek immigrant mum landed her with such a ridiculous name: ‘Melon’ makes her the butt of all kinds of teasing at her London school. Her mum’s explanation had always been in the form of ‘The Story’ about how she had left Crete when she was a teenager. But Melon’s sick of hearing this story and wants a better explanation.

Red Ink is about Melon’s explorations and discoveries about herself, her mother and her family as she reconsiders ‘The Story’ and all the little traditions that were built into it. The more she finds, the more you want to know. The novel flips backwards and forwards in time and place, counting the days and months before and after Melon’s mum’s death. These chapters are also interspersed with ‘The Story’ as Melon begins to write it in a notebook.

It’s a coming-of-age tale, or as the publishers describe it, a rites of passage novel full of symbolism (like red ink itself is) where the characters, mostly Melon, move from separation, through transition and into re-incorporation. Julie Mayhew gives all of her characters depth and she’s not afraid to dig deep into their weaker points.

The writing in this novel is gorgeous and creates a great sense of place and character. Mayhew captures the little details in life beautifully: like why being on a bus is scarier than the London underground tube trains. But her writing is gripping at the same time  - and occasionally startles you with the odd crudity. In Red Ink, what’s below the surface really isn’t always smooth nor shiny.

Red Ink is a deliciously compelling read that had me eating sticky sweet baklavas and thinking about a holiday to Crete (haha – but perhaps not with Little M!).

Depending on your view and age, there are a couple of small (even big) rude or cringe-inducing scenes (but I guess that’s par for the course with many coming of age novels).  I’d say Red Ink is probably more suitable for older teens and adults. Some themes in the novel that stood out for me include family secrets, teen pregnancy, identity, grief and stereotyping. There are references to drugs and sex.

 Another very good and atmospheric coming-of-age novel that I’d recommend particularly (but not only) for younger teens/older tweens is Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace.

Publication details: February 2013, Hot Key Books, London, hardback
This copy: received for review from the publisher

Cover design &  photos by Jet Purdie and Jan Bielicki


1 comment:

  1. Lovely review! I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book soon :)


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