I read Wicked Lovely this past summer and loved it. I hadn’t been dying to read Ink Exchange, though. No particular reason except that there were other books on my “To Be Read” List calling my name. So I put off reading Melissa Marr’s second book. That is, until I started reading her blog.
Melissa has a fascinating section on her website called “Writing Chatter,” which gives a lot of insight into her writing process, what she thinks about while writing, etc. I checked it out along with some of her blog archives.
No doubt most of y’all have heard of the “sophomore slump.” Authors have years to write their first published book and then they are forced to meet a deadline and, well, sometimes it’s difficult to reproduce the magic of the first book.
Melissa says about writing Ink Exchange, “I spent a lot of time looking at Ink Exchange & being pretty certain that it would fail, that Wicked Lovely was a fluke…”
It wasn’t a fluke. I finished Ink Exchange last night. Mainly because I read on Melissa’s site that it was more the book of her heart than Wicked Lovely and that it was the darker book she had wanted to write. And I loved it.
I thought the actual writing was much better. It’s the same voice and style–very straight forward, no nonsense–but that’s the only style I can picture the subject matter in. What impressed me most were a few of the action/fight sequences. Her imagery is beautiful and pacing spot on. If you’ve read the book or are planning on reading it, look for the scene where Bananach meets Niall in an alley to see what I mean. I’m planning on re-reading this scene several more times before I get into some of the fight scenes for my own book proposal.
Coming in a close second–or maybe tied?–for the element that most impressed me in Ink Exchange is Melissa Marr’s appeal to all five senses. Ink Exchange is a sensual experience in every sense of the word. I rarely see an author focus on taste, smell, and touch to the same degree that he or she draws the reader’s attention to sight and sound.
One thing I did wonder as I read was: Is the author trying to be dark for darkness’s sake?
At times, I found myself trying to decide whether the violence, sex, and drugs were a bit gratuitous. In the end, I decided No. I did my test: Will the story work without that element? Here, the answer was no. I will say, though, that this is not a book for young teens. It’s definitely pushing the envelope for even upper YA. But something came to mind as I worried about the appropriateness of the content for teens. Maybe y’all remember the scandal surrounding Dakota Fanning’s “rape scene” in the recent movie Hound Dog. I am constantly impressed by that girl’s apparent maturity. But when people criticized her mother for allowing her to be in the movie, she responded head on, saying “You have to prepare your children for things that happen in the world. Everything isn’t rosy.” For me, that seems to sum up Ink Exchange nicely. To those recent critics of YA who seem to think that the category talks down to its readers, hinders them from learning, and is an utter waste of a tree, I might suggest picking up Ink Exchange and then getting back to us.
To read my review of Melissa Marr’s first book, Wicked Lovely, set in the same world, click here.