This book appealed to me for one big reason—the main character wanted to be a tattoo artist! I loved that plot point and I was eager to read it simply for that! I have two full tattoo sleeves and tattoo culture has changed SO MUCH since I got my first tattoo. When I was 18 (1999 ish) I was sure no one would hire me with a visible tattoo so I got a tiny one on my shoulder, flash forward 20 years and here I am with a professional job and full sleeve tattoos and PLENTY of other visible ones too.
I love tattoos and the tattoo culture and I thought it would be so exciting to have a book written about a character who wants to be a tattoo artist—especially a female tattoo artist! Plus the book is set in the 1980s which would no doubt be a difficult time for a female tattoo artist to enter the field. I was so excited to see how the story would unfold and what fun bits of counter culture would be included in it!
I also loved that this book featured an LGBTQ plot. I know this isn’t for everyone but I thought it would be fun to read an LGBTQ book for Pride month even if I am straight etc I love broadening my horizons and reading tastes and trying something new and modern! I personally felt like this book was more coming of age story than LGBTQ romance centered but it did have a bit of both but I felt the coming of age part was the solid focus of the story over all. If you love coming of age stories and want something a little different I think this would be a wonderful reading option for you!
An uplifting, feminist coming-of-age love story about a young woman who dreams of becoming a tattoo artist, and living life on her own terms
Introvert Gina Mulley is determined to become a tattoo artist, and to find somewhere she belongs in her conventional Long Island town. But this is 1985, when tattooing is still a gritty, male-dominated fringe culture, and Gina’s funky flash is not exactly mainstream tattoo fare. The good news is that her older brother Dominic owns a tattoo shop, and he reluctantly agrees to train her.
Gina has a year to prove herself, but her world is turned upside down when a mysterious psychic and his striking assistant, Anna, arrive on the scene. With Anna’s help, Gina recognizes that the only way she has a shot at becoming a professional tattoo artist is to stand up for herself, and embrace her quirkiness both in her art and her life.
When Gina and Anna fall in love, Dominic gives Gina an ultimatum. She’s faced with an impossible choice: Is the romance and newfound independence she’s found worth sacrificing her dreams? Or can she find a way to have it all? (summary from Goodreads)
I really liked the general feel of this book. It has this great nostalgic/vintage vibe mixed with the misfit-ness of the 1980s tattoo counter culture. It was a very fun way to explore a time in our not so recent past and dig a little into the social aspects of our society. I thought this was where the novel shined. The author did a wonderful job developing the time period, plot, and climate of the novel and I really felt like I was living in that time period and experiencing some of what Gina was up against in the tattooing world and just society in general.
I enjoyed Gina as a main character. She has grit, determination, but also this innocents about her that I really enjoyed and felt connected to. The problem I had was all the characters around her. I didn’t care for her brother for example and while Gina was a solid main character the people around her just weren’t (except Rick, Rick was great!). I had a hard time reading how other characters treated Gina which made me admire her tenacity but also question why she let some of these people into her life in the first place.
Normally this wouldn’t be a book that I picked up to read. I prefer historical fiction and it’s subgenres along with a good old fashion dose of murder—-reading coming of age books generally isn’t my go to genre. Plus this book is set in a time period that I grew up in so generally I tend to pass on books like that since it always feels a little too close to home and serves as a reminder of my age, meaning I want to read to escape, not to relive my childhood memories. But there was just something about this book that called to me and made me want to read it. I am glad I did as it’s a great read that was surprising for me. I wasn’t expecting to be drawn into this one in the way that I was. Even though I didn’t have anything in common with the main character (beyhond a love for tattoos), I still felt a connection and investment in her character and story. If you are looking for something a little off the beaten path that is solid and fulfilling, I think this one would be a great option for you! At the very least it’s deserves a spot on your TBR list!
Book Info and Rating
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 21st 2022 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN 0593298799 (ISBN13: 9780593298794)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: general fiction, LGBTQ fiction, romance