Title: Red Ink
Author: Julie Mayhew
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
“When her mother is knocked down and killed by a London bus, fifteen-year-old Melon Fouraki is left with no family worth mentioning. Her mother, Maria, never did introduce her to a living, breathing father. The indomitable Auntie Aphrodite, meanwhile, is hundreds of miles away on a farm in Crete, and she is not likely to jump on a plane to come to East Finchley anytime soon. But at least Melon has The Story. The Story is the Fouraki family fairy tale. A story is something. Balanced with tenderness and humor, this time-shifting novel offers a narrator by turns angry and vulnerable, hurt and defiant as she struggles with sudden grief—and the unfolding process of finding out who she really is.”
Last year, I read Julie Mayhew’s The Big Lie, an alternate-history story in which Germany won WWII and the UK became a Nazi state. I adored that book for all of its quiet YA power, and was expecting to love whatever else Julie Mayhew had to offer. So I had really high hopes for Red Ink, previously published in the UK but released on February 9 in the US. Red Ink follows Melon Fouraki in the immediate aftermath of her mother’s death and is truly a story about what truth means for a family.
Unfortunately, Red Ink was a messy read. There is so much going on in this book: the death of Melon’s mother, The Story of the Fouraki family, Melon being placed in the care of her mom’s boyfriend, being bullied at school…there is a way to portray how overwhelmingly it is to continue living while you’re grieving, but it isn’t accomplished in this novel. All of these different plot threads feel so disjointed while reading, and I found it difficult to keep up with the jumping timeline.
The real nail in the coffin was Melon. Yes, she’s only fifteen. Yes, her mother has just died and her whole world has changed. But my god Melon was insufferably annoying. I couldn’t sympathize with her the way I wanted to because I found her character so unlikable.
Ultimately, it felt as though Julie Mayhew was trying to do too much with Red Ink. While I enjoyed the ideas this story touched upon regarding family and the truths we create for ourselves and for others, it felt lost and underdeveloped in the larger story arc. Also. There is a scene towards the end of this book that occurs between Melon and another character (that literally! only exists! to do this thing! omg this character was entirely created to and only serves the purpose of this one scene) that really fucking bothered me. I get what Mayhew was probably trying to achieve with this, but it did not work for me. In fact, the last third or so of this book ended up souring my entire reading experience. Basically, I’m really disappointed in this and it was not at all as impressive as I’d hoped.
Rating: 2.5 stars
*I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.