Fingerprints of You is Madonia’s debut novel, but for all the nail-hitting strong points this story has to offer you would hardly be able to tell. I just feel all kinds of love for this book and the characters inside of it right now and for eternity. Madonia beautifully encapsulates what it really means to be home, and what family can truly be.
Lemon has always had Stella, her mum, for better or worse. Every move into a new town/city meant a fresh start, a new boy toy for Stella to sink her nails into. Lemon has always wondered what her father was like, and why he and Stella didn't try and make it work. When Lemon falls pregnant after an encounter with the local tattoo artist Johnny Drinko, she and her best friend Emmy plan a trip... all the way across the continent. From a small town in West Virginia all the way to San Francisco, California. But Lemon has an ulterior motive for the trip. That’s where her father lives. Before the baby is born, she just has to know if she’s going to be okay, raising the kid on her own without a father. She has to lay the blame somewhere: Stella, or her dad.
Lemon felt like a real person to me, not just a character in a novel. On one hand, she is down to earth, cool and—come on, she's a reader! On the other hand, she makes mistakes, and sometimes her decisions aren't the best ones. I could relate to all of that. When you’re young, it’s kind of expected that you’ll make mistakes, but it’s kind of a lottery as to how serious those mistakes will be, as well as what the repercussions will be. Madonia doesn’t try to moralise the situation with Lemon and the baby; rather, the pregnancy never became Lemon’s defining feature, but just another thing about her that one should know about. Something that shifts and changes as she herself changes.
I like Lemon’s voice. I like the blunt tones of the written prose that seemed to flow really well. The voice was consistent and felt modern and genuine to the character Madonia was trying to portray.
“I remembered our shitty house with the stained carpet and the worn-out couch waiting for us on the other side of town, and I realised I’d spent most of my childhood being angry at her for making us live like that, and for refusing to pick a place to settle down in. I looked at Stella’s face, the wrinkles and tired eyes camouflaged by the darkness of the room, and I wondered if she would go back if she could, wondered what she would change and how things would go the second time around if she had the chance to fix the choices she regretted. (38)
Stella. I think our perception of Lemon's mum shifts as Lemon learns more and more about her past. And I liked that; she became a 3D character, something dynamic that has more than one layer to it. Stella isn't perfect, we know that, but she's not the bad guy here. She just is who she is. I think it’s a great lesson in YA lit when the teen protagonist comes to the realisation that his/her parent may have tried their hardest despite their many shortcomings. Stella also presents herself as kind of a reflection on Lemon and her life in the future. They are different and yet similar in so many ways. I find that you don’t really find this level of character development for parents in other genres, which is a shame, but Madonia addresses Stella and all her layers perfectly.
What can’t be ignored in a good YA book is the protagonist’s best friend. Emmy is a great best friend character, and together, she and Lemon complement and complete each other. She has her own issues going on, and they have an impact on how Lemon views her own situation with her father. Their friendship is so beautiful and realistic. They are there for one another, and they won't hesitate to punch the other in the face (verbally) if they disagree with what the other is doing/thinking. It's an authentic portrayal of a true friendship.
Now I admit I haven’t read that many books that involve road trips or travelling (though I do have many on my TBR!). In Fingerprints of You, it's not even exactly about the landscapes or landmarks that they pass through, or the things that they see in San Francisco. Rather, I loved how the road trip changes THEM, and how things change during that road trip. This book involves not only a physical journey, but an emotional one, too.
Coming of age... it's kind of my favourite thing to read about. In this book Lemon and all those around her change and learn so much throughout the story. Madonia addresses some important issues that young people face as they grow up: who they are, where they are going, what does the future hold, making mistakes and learning from them, coping with loss + grief, sexuality and love. I felt that she gave each a decent amount of attention, and the subject content was handled well overall.
One last thing. Tattoos. They are intricately symbolic and hold great significance in this book. They can represent change (or opportunity to get with the tattoo artist), in the case of Stella. They can represent permanence and remembrance—Lemon’s entire life changes when she steps into that tattoo parlour. The experience of the pregnancy and the trip to San Francisco will never be forgotten, emotionally permanent, similar to the physically permanent nature of a pen-ink tattoo. The cover for Fingerprints of You is brilliant. It is so fitting for the story and the tattoo style of the cover is what drew me to the story in the first place. I eagerly await Madonia’s next book, especially if it holds similar themes: family, love, loss, grief, pain, change, home, friendship, life, learning from mistakes and learning to let go.(less)