Review of ‘New Ink on Life’ by Jennie Davids
Reading this series is making me want a new tattoo even more than before! Not that the timing is right for that or anything, but the time will come when I can start making plans again. And when that time comes, I want to find a place like Thorn & Thistle, or, rather, like the Torn & Thistle of the end of this novel.
MJ Flores is still reeling from the betrayal of her ex-business partner (and ex-lover) splitting and setting up her own tattoo parlour with half of Torn & Thistle’s team, leaving MJ with terrible reviews and an even worse attitude. MJ is so not in the mood for a mousy apprentice but can’t find it in her to reject the woman her former mentor sent to her. Cassie left her secure and well-paying job as an executive assistant to become a tattoo artist, disappointing her father and delighting her mother. A born people-pleaser, she wants to change, find her backbone, yet is not entirely sure life will let her enjoy it once she’s found it, as she’s waiting to know whether she’s finally rid of cancer.
When we meet her, MJ is awful, the kind of character I don’t often care about, hard and self-centred. It’s a testament to the author’s talent that she managed to make me relate to her anyway. That’s all the more impressive as New Ink on Life is Davids’s debut novel. When she finds out about Cassie’s battle with breast cancer, MJ’s attitude changes at first towards her, which Cassie hates. But it also makes MJ open in her own way, and she takes it upon herself to teach Cassie how to stand up to others. While Cassie thinks she’s the one learning, MJ goes on her own unexpected journey. And as different as they are – big badass MJ and timid Cassie and her sweaters –, the chemistry between them is irresistible and completely believable.
Watching MJ lower her defences and Cassie let her strength shine is a thing of beauty. I really liked that it’s not so much cancer that defines Cassie as the way she fights it. She thinks she’s weak but she’s a total warrior and, in the end, one of the strongest characters I’ve read about.