Fingerprints of You opens on Lemon’s 17th birthday, which her mom, Stella, is celebrating by getting herself a new tattoo. After a lifetime of being dragged from place to place in the wake of Stella’s bad decisions inspired by bad men, Lemon wants to differentiate herself from the mother she sees as “made of metal and glass.” Lacking a better role model, she does so by hooking up with her mom’s tattoo artist and ending up pregnant.

Author Kristen-Paige Madonia brings poetry to the down-but-not-out Stella and Lemon. When Lemon rides a bus cross-country in search of her absentee dad, she can finally loosen up and explore an age-appropriate romance (ironic belly bump notwithstanding). Lemon’s first impressions of San Francisco’s Mission District include “the smells of marinara and car fumes and something dank and wet seeping from the street drains,” along with the many small kindnesses from neighbors in an overwhelming landscape. Those little lessons pay forward into Lemon’s budding relationship with her dad and help her forge some peace with Stella.

At its heart, Fingerprints of You is the tale of Lemon’s liberation from a too-young adulthood and her emancipation back into youth. At the beginning of the book Stella jokes that she chose the name “Lemon” because her daughter was bitter; later she admits to being drawn to it because, “That yellow looked like hope to me.” Lemon’s trip is a tough one, but by the end she’s found a new path that owes as much to the hardships she’s seen as to her mother’s once-invisible but nevertheless enduring love.

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