Poison Ink
Christopher Golden

Delacorte Press
Trade Paperback/288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-73483-7
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". . . a dark urban adventure tale where no one leaves unscathed."

Poison Ink: By the pricking of the tattoo, something evil this way comes.

Sammi, Ketsuko, Letty, Caryn and TQ are different. They are outsiders in school who find each other as well as something in common. Each talented teenager dreams of making their mark on the world. They decide to mark their friendship with a tattoo.

Instead of the tattoo that Caryn designed, the tattoo artist in Letty’s barrio neighborhood draws something different. Dante doesn’t have any qualms about tattooing minors without their parents’ permission, which is why the girls chose him. They agreed to Dante’s design and, one after another, they take their turn having the design carved into their skin. Sammi says no. Her friends are angry at her, but it isn’t until she shows up with an imperfect version of the tattoo that they accept her back into the fold. But they find out it’s fake, and without a second thought, Sammi’s friends cut her out of their lives.

Sammi is devastated. What hurts more is how much her friends – and their tattoos – are changing—and not for the better.

High school is hard enough, but Christopher Golden takes teenage angst, close friendship and peer pressure to a darker and more malevolent level in Poison Ink. Sammi is a friendly and open young girl having an increasingly hard time at home. She is the most clearly realized character in the story. Golden sketches in the various high school cliques and Sammi’s friends, but they are merely background with watercolor translucence. Sammi’s parents are ghostly after images, only to provide support and structure as literary cannon fodder.

Despite that, Poison Ink is a riveting and thrilling read with enough twists and turns to keep the most discerning reader happy. Don’t look for deep or insightful social commentary—it’s not in here. This is a dark urban adventure tale where no one leaves unscathed. I enjoyed my journey with Sammi. The gripping climax is definitely worth the trip.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell