Fingerprints of You was not what I planned to include in my reading portfolio this summer. While I earnestly declined book review requests as of July to make room for personal selections, I made an exception because of the engaging first chapter posted on The Story Siren's site many moons ago, and after meeting the author at the Virginia Festival of the Book earlier this year when she introduced Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife. I knew I could fit this in, and after all, I've been reading everything from Stephen King to classics and audiobooks crossing the gamut of all things fiction, non-fiction, and more, so why not? Lately, I've read a number of YA books, but they've mostly been stories set in a fantastical and paranormal world, which can be a bit tiresome after a while.
Fingerprints of You, however, was startlingly unique in its simplicity: A young girl becomes pregnant by an older man and at seventeen-years-old decides to take a road trip with her best friend to San Francisco to find the father she's never known. How refreshing was this compared to the YA books I'd read the past few months? Extremely.
It's been a long time since Lemon's remembered what it was like to live in a stable and routine life when they lived with her grandmother. Named Lemon by her artistic mother for her favorite color the month of her birth, Lemon's moved most of her young seventeen years from one place to another whenever Stella decides to make a change, mostly as a result of a relationship gone bad. Unfortunately, trying to start anew is never as satisfying as initially expected, and Lemon's felt the void of friendships and stability ever since. When an afternoon rebellion with her mother's tattoo artist in a small Virginia town results in a pregnancy, she and her mother move again to an even smaller town in West Virginia. With a new best friend, Emmy, whose father was shipped off to Afghanistan, the decision to take a road trip during the winter school break becomes even more important for them both. The real reason why San Francisco was chosen though, is known only to Lemon, who decides she must meet her father before her own child is born.
With quiet and contemplative moments, Fingerprints of You became a sleeper hit for me. I wasn't anticipating the tiny struggles of pain that would suddenly burst forth from the pages as Lemon tried to make sense of so many things at once: an absent, unknown father, a flighty mother, a sense of emptiness in not having a place to call home, while simultaneously finding independence and roots in a cultural city full of art and music so unlike the small towns she's used to. Kristen-Paige Madonia certainly doesn't leave anything out in this tender coming of age story, and whether it's a handwritten inscription in a book, or a road trip made cross country between best friends, it's a lesson to all that we each can make an indelible impression on another, no matter how quickly a moment may pass between people.
Fingerprints of You is a multi-layered story of loss, hope, and discovery, and with San Francisco as the vibrant backdrop, the wealth of art and music at each corner is impressively vivid. Although set in contemporary times, the sights and sounds of San Francisco seemed to echo an earlier time and made me think of what I'd imagine it might have been like to be young in the 1960s, the young striving to find purpose during a time of war, a place of their own, or even just a little bit of independence amidst the routines of day-to-day life. Every generation feels this, of course, but there seemed such a marked sense of relationship between the two eras, that it beautifully blended into one for me, and I appreciated the story that much more.
It's a bit minor to state, especially since it's clear I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I could so easily envision the city and key character moments, but I think just a little more editing was needed to tighten down some scenes that were too descriptive, and conversely, there didn't seem to be enough emotional insight when it came to the pregnancy, which surprisingly felt detached in just a few scenes. And part of me (the immature part) wanted Stella to get a new tattoo to cover up the one made by the man who got her daughter pregnant, but maybe it was intentional to keep that a silent piece of resolution.
Ultimately, though, my quibbles are ridiculously minor in the grand scheme of the essential core of this story, which was immensely satisfying. I'd recommend this coming-of-age tale to an older YA audience especially, but all age groups in their twenties on up will find a little something that resonates with them. And like Lemon's understanding that we each make a permanent impression on each other in life, Kristen-Paige Madonia has unquestionably cemented her spot in the publishing industry world with her debut Fingerprints of You, and I eagerly await her next novel.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 8/7/12
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.
About the Author (from her website)
Kristen-Paige Madonia's fiction has appeared in various publications including Upstreet, New Orleans Review, American Fiction: Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, and Sycamore Review, and she has received awards or fellowships from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook Writer's Retreat, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the Studios of Key West. She was a finalist for the 2011 Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and in 2010 she was awarded the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize. She currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia where she teaches creative writing and is at work on her second novel.
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