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  • Poison Ink
  • Written by Christopher Golden
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780385734837
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Poison Ink

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SAMMI, TQ, CARYN, Letty, and Katsuko are floaters. None of them fits in with any particular group at Covington High School—except each other. One night, to cement their bond, the girls decide to get matching, unique tattoos. But when Sammi backs out at the last minute, everything changes. Faster than you can say “airbrush,” Sammi is an outcast, and soon, her friends are behaving like total strangers. When they attack Sammi for trying to break up a brawl, Sammi spies something horrible on her friends’ backs: the original tattoo has grown tendrils, snaking and curling over the girls’ entire bodies. What has that creepy tattoo artist done to her friends? And what—if anything—can Sammi do to get them back? This deliciously creepy psychological thriller is the perfect summer read.


On the last Friday night of summer, Sammi Holland and the girls went downtown in search of ice cream. They planned to meet at Krueger’s Flatbread for pizza beforehand, a necessary preamble to the main event: an utter debauchery of swirl-ins and sprinkles and fudge sauce at England’s MicroCreamery. Afterward, the five of them would wander Washington Street, peeking in the windows of the candle shop, the art galleries, and the bohemian café on the corner, ending up at Cruel and Unusual Books. No way were they getting out of there without hitting the bookshop. Sammi could be very persuasive.

Downtown Covington didn’t draw a lot of teenagers. Most of their classmates from Covington High School would be at the mall tonight. But Sammi and the girls just weren’t the sort who hung out at the mall.

Unless they were going to the movies, Sammi and her friends steered clear of the Merrimack River Walk. The long, outdoor strip mall had been built less than ten years before, complete with movie megaplex, massive bookstore, and tons of chain clothing stores. On Friday and Satur- day nights, hordes of high school kids from Haverhill, Methuen, Jameson, and other nearby towns roved the sidewalks along the River Walk in gaggles, half of them talking on their cell phones or texting their friends who hadn’t come along. Like the “main drag” in old movies and TV shows, the River Walk was all about seeing and being seen—half mating ritual and half dance of supremacy.

Sammi had no interest in that kind of poseur crap, and neither did the girls she hung around with. The five of them had been oddballs and loners all their lives, until they had found each other. Now they were like sisters, and all was right with the world. Or mostly right. So tonight Sammi walked along a stretch of cobblestoned sidewalk on Washington Street with Caryn Adams.

“Come on,” she said, hooking her arm through Caryn’s and dragging her away from the window of a closed gallery. “We’re late.”

Caryn fell into step beside her, grinning. “You’re just lucky that place isn’t open. Then we’d be really late.”

“Aren’t you hungry? I’m starving.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of the ‘starving artist’? ” Caryn said. “Kind of comes with the territory.”

“Yeah, right. All those fashionistas who design dresses for the red carpet crowd, they’re starving artists. If they’re only eating carrot sticks, it isn’t because they can’t afford a decent meal.”

“No argument. But first they had to suffer. They had to get down in the trenches and fight it out with all the other ambitious artists.”

Sammi laughed. “You make it sound like war.”

Caryn glanced at her, the fading summer sunshine gleaming on her caramel skin. “There are all kinds of wars.”

Sammi blinked. She knew Caryn wanted a career in fashion desperately. Of all of her friends—of anyone she knew—Caryn had the most purpose and drive. But sometimes it verged on obsession.

“You must chill. Seriously. One of these days we’ll watch the Oscars together and they’ll ask, ‘Who are you wearing?’ and the answer will be ‘Caryn Adams.’ I know this. We all know it. But between now and then, you really have to chill. School starts on Tuesday, and tonight’s supposed to be about just being together.”

Caryn softened. “You’re right. That me, the one who was getting all tense? Just sent her home. Girl is not allowed to come out tonight.”

Sammi smiled. “Good.”

Grinning, they turned off of Washington Street into Railroad Square. Sammi and Caryn were roughly the same height—five feet three inches—and close enough in size that they could share clothes. The spaghetti-strap top Caryn had on had come from Sammi’s closet, while Sammi had pulled on a couple of tank tops, going for the layered look. Caryn wore sneakers, but Sammi stuck with the strappy sandals she’d worn most of the summer.

They walked alongside the concrete wall of the elevated train platform toward the old brick factory building that housed Krueger’s Flatbread. Most of Covington had been mills and factories once upon a time, like so many cities built north of Boston on the Merrimack River. In the past few years, the downtown had undergone serious renovation, the old buildings gutted and reclaimed for apartments, offices, and storefront shops. Much cooler than any mall.
Christopher Golden

About Christopher Golden

Christopher Golden - Poison Ink

Photo © Leanne Mann

Christopher Golden’s novels include The Lost Ones, The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and The Borderkind. Golden co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Vampire, with Mike Mignola, and they are currently scripting it as a feature film for the New Regency. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Readers. Upcoming teen novels include Poison Ink for Delacorte, Soulless for MTV Books, and The Secret Journeys of Jack London, a collaboration with Tim Lebbon. With Thomas E. Sniegoski, he is the co-author of the dark fantasy series The Menagerie as well as the young readers fantasy series OutCast and the comic book miniseries Talent, both of which were recently acquired by Universal Pictures. Golden and Sniegoski also wrote the upcoming comic book miniseries The Sisterhood, currently in development as a feature film. Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. At present he is collaborating with Tim Lebbon on The Map of Moments, the second novel of The Hidden Cities.

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