Ink for the Beloved is the first book in RC Barnes' "The Tattoo Teller" series. It's YA done with flair and imagination. There's a mystery at the heart of it, but the heroine, 16-year-old Bess Wynters is a girl with a little something extra. What her 'superpower is" and how it affects her life and helps her solve the mystery is both original and believable.
Barnes hooks us from the first pages of the book. Something terrible has happened and Bess is sitting in an interrogation room as she's questioned by the cops and a sympathetic ADA about people she knows. Beth is confused, conflicted, guilty and defiant and we're drawn to her and her inability to give a simple answer to the lawyer's question, "When did the trouble start?" For Bess, there has always been trouble growing up in her mercurial mother's household. Her beautiful mother with tattoos all over her body and her bright red hair. She looks like her eautiful mother, although her skin is nut-brown, the legacy of a father named Charles who never met her and doesn't even know she exists.
Bess can't really count on her mother--a legendary tattoo artist whose promiscuity ensures a never-ending parade of possible "daddies" for Bess and her baby sister Echo--but she has two friends who have her back--Rueben and Joanie, whose Jehovah's Witness beliefs are challenged by the whole tattoo thing, but whose steadfast friendship survives things that would have sent a lesser friend away.
Bess is clever and brave and those two qualities almost prove her undoing as she tries to puzzle out what's going on with her mother's shady new beau Todd. She's tender with her little sister--a wonderful character who comes across like a real little girl, and not some imaginary version of what a little kid is like.
There are wonderful moments between the sisters, who share secrets and much, much more.
There are also moments that will break your heart when the meanings behind some tattoos are told. (There's a lot of good info about tattoos and the trends and the menaing. Barnes has included little vignettes along the way, and they enhance the overarching story.)
The book is complete as a stand-alone but there are still some mysteries. What happened to the mural artist who called himself Spiderwand? Will Bess ever meet her father? These characters feel like they have a life beyond the pages here. Treat yourself to the read.
Find Barnes at her website and follow her on Amazon.