RED INK by Julie Mayhew


Age Range: 15 & up
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In her debut novel, Mayhew deftly explores the ways the sudden death of 15-year-old Melon’s mother affects their family’s oral history.

The book’s nonlinear structure makes each section a moment in time that reveals a different piece of the puzzle. The chapter titles orient readers by indicating when the scene takes place in relation to Maria’s death. Interspersed between the chapters is “The Story”—Melon’s written account of the family history her mother told her again and again. The simple prose exposes the difficult realities of many teenagers in modern-day London. Melon is an explosive character. The social workers, her friends, and even the bullies at school tiptoe around her grief, which exacerbates her abrasive personality. Melon grapples with anger and guilt as she tries to understand her late mother. Her explicit and unfiltered language reflects both her frank temperament and the sensitive subjects in the narrative. The sexual objectification of the mother’s black boyfriend is an unfortunate throughline that mars the book. Despite writing Paul as a full and nuanced character, the author does not adequately address the racist underpinnings of the repeated discussions of his body.

A taut portrayal of grief, pain, and the ties that bind families, to be read with a careful, critical eye. (Fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7731-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2015


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