After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson is a young adult novel that released in July this year. Sixteen-year-old Erica Walker is a webcomic artist who wants to fit in at her affluent new high school. After a party, Erica wakes up half-clothed, and discovers words and names drawn in Sharpie in intimate places on her body—names belonging to Thomas’s lacrosse friends and his own. Told in alternating viewpoints, Erica seeks to uncover what happened while battling to keep evidence of her humiliation from leaking out, as Thomas grapples with his actions and who he thought he was. Woven throughout, illustrated graphic novel interstitials depict Erica’s alter ego superhero, Erica Strange, whose courage just might help Erica come through to the other side.
First of all, I’ve never read anything like this. The story alternates between the survivor’s pov and one of the perpetrator’s perspective – something I’ve never read before. This was a really unique idea that was executed really well.
This is not an easy read, but it’s one I encourage people to pick up (do check trigger warnings). This tackles assault in every aspect – the trauma, the guilt, the frustration. Reading about Erica was heartbreaking and angering. There were several points where I cried. Even a time, where I was so frustrated, I thought I was going to chuck my phone across my room.
Watching this unfold from Thomas’ perspective and seeing how the families of the perpetrators reacted, was interesting to the say the least. By no means was Thomas a character I liked or had sympathy for. But it was a really important perspective.
It reminded me how horrible high school could be for some and just how cruel teenagers could be.
The illustrations woven in through the story added another unique touch. They were so beautifully done by Emma Vieceli. They added another dimension to the book and were just as relevant as the writing.
I was really happy with the direction this book went in. The only thing that would’ve made it more satisfying would be a bit more closure – but I suspect that may have been the intention.
This is one that I highly recommend and will not stop talking about for a long time.