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?
Gervais allows us to watch events unfold from Gina’s perspective, and so we are occasionally frustrated by our protagonist’s misguided attempts to reconcile all the different pieces of herself into a cohesive whole. But we’re also amused at her and Anna’s flailing, awkward attempts to move beyond friendship to something more ... Throughout, the author takes the structure and tropes of a traditional bildungsroman and lovingly places them over this intimate circle of people, this single year, to show how even small conversations and experiences can shape a young life. It’s all even more beautiful when you realize the author has used a centuries-old structure to create a gentle, queer, feminist coming-of-age tale set in the little-explored world of 1980s tattooing ... True, the result is surely a niche Venn diagram, but such is Gervais’ skill that the tale will resonate with all kinds of readers. The artistry here — save for one jarring scene dealing with dubiously granted sexual consent — is deft, and Gina is an immensely likable if frustrating character.
This book felt like it was written just for me ... The description of her wild flash and her love for drawing gave me goosebumps. The book’s pacing and tension-building are excellent – the stakes kept getting higher and higher for Gina, until I was ready to leap into the pages and go to war for her. That steady turn of the screw kept the story feeling fresh and dynamic, and the characters kept me invested. Gina is relatable, likeable, and has some great emotional growth. Her brother Dominic is endearing and frustrating. Her mom is a heartbreaking mix of maddening and manipulative but still sympathetic. Every character has their own charm and their own faults. They feel real. You want things to work out for them and you ache when they struggle. Everything about their interactions felt natural and believable. I also have to give major props to the author for all the accurate tattooing details – she knows her stuff! ... Dominic’s shop came to life because it was written by someone who KNOWS. That makes me happier than I can say. Basically, read this book. If you’re into stories of young women fighting for their place in the world, you’ll like it. If you want bisexual representation, here you go. If you’re interested in art and/or tattoos, you’ll love it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel seen.