Title: Fingerprints of You
Author: Kristen-Paige Madonia
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Summary from Goodreads- Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as they are moving yet again, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant from a reckless encounter—with a guy Stella had been flirting with.
On the verge of revisiting her mother’s mistakes, Lemon struggles to cope with the idea of herself as a young unmarried mother, as well as the fact that she’s never met her own father. Determined to have at least one big adventure before she has the baby, Lemon sets off on a cross-country road trip, intending not only to meet her father, but to figure out who she wants to be.
Fingerprints of You, a great debut by Kristen-Paige Madonia is a super cool story with an artsy vibe and cool characters. It’s by turns tender and heartbreaking, the perfect combo for this coming-of-age, teenage pregnancy, YA road trip story.
I fell in love with this story and its protagonist, Lemon, right from the first sentence. I liked that Madonia jumped right into the story with Lemon’s mother Stella getting the hummingbird tattoo from Johnny Drinko. The story started quickly and progressed at the same steady pace for the whole book, never leaving me feeling bored or wanting to be moved along more. Despite that, there were times when I wished Madonia had spent just a tad more on certain things, like Lemon’s relationship with Johnny Drinko. I know it wasn’t that kind of relationship, but since he was the father of Lemon’s baby, I guess I was just surprised she didn’t spend a bit more time thinking about him, or consider telling him about the baby or anything like that.
I was also interested in Lemon’s passion for books, which we later discover comes from her father. I don’t come across many female protagonists with a love of reading, so Lemon was certainly a refreshing character in that respect as well. I wish that perhaps Madonia had gone into Lemon’s love of books more deeply. We are told pretty much from the beginning that Lemon loves to read, but there are really only two solid scenes where that becomes more significant: the scene where her young teacher recommends The Red Tent, and the scene on the bus where Lemon talks about it with Emmy. In that scene, it becomes clear that Lemon sees the main character of The Red Tent as a role model, because she is so impressed with her ability to persevere even through the most horrible, horrible things. I would have liked to see more scenes involving other books, since literature is important to both Lemon and her father.
I liked how Madonia didn’t have Lemon reveal everything about Stella immediately. At the beginning of the book, I really didn’t like Stella, because it seemed that she only thought about herself and her needs. She seemed very flighty and irresponsible, which was how Lemon saw her at that point as well. However, as the story moves along, the reader gets to see that Stella really does care about Lemon, even if she doesn’t show it in a more traditional way.
We start seeing how much Stella cares about Lemon after she leaves to find her father in California with her best friend Emmy, who is another character I adored. Emmy is probably the least judgmental person on the planet (okay, the fictional planet, but whatever), and she is n amazing friend to lemon for the whole story. She never seems to think badly of Lemon even when Lemon kind of expects her to, and always sticks by her when she needs her most. I wish I saw more of this kind of friend in YA lit, rather than the back-stabbing kind that usually gets written about. But getting back to Stella.
When Emmy goes home and leaves Lemon with her dad, Ryan, and his beautiful girlfriend, Cassie, she tells Lemon about seeing Stella walking “just to walk” Lemon is confused, and asks Stella about this. Stella tells her that she know’s she’s aging, and just wants to be in shape so she can keep up with her daughter and especially her grandchild. Stella also manages to put aside her complicated feelings for Ryan and comes out to California when Lemon needs her most, and finally explains that even though Ryan may have been a good man at some point, she did what she thought was best for her and Lemon, and moved around so much both because she never wanted Lemon to feel tied down, and because she never found anywhere good enough for her daughter. This revelation made Stella seem much more human, and it made Lemon’s story all the more powerful as well.
I absolutely adored this book. Madonia’s 2012 debut is a beautiful story. She has an honest, fresh voice that pulls you right in and hangs on even after the last page. She is definitely an author to watch.