I have noticed a tattoo trend of late in the world of Young Adult fantasy. Let me first preface this by saying I have nothing against tattoos. I have a tattoo. Some people have great tattoos, and some people have really bad, bad tattoos. So before you get a tattoo, make sure you do your research, kids.
All right, now that I have stepped off my little soap box, let’s get back to YA fantasy. Twice in the past year, I have gone to the movies and seen movie posters for YA books turned films that prominently feature tattoos on the young characters. In City of Bones and in Divergent, body art plays a significant role, either as being a part of a special power or by being a designation of a certain group.
The group designation looks a little like gang tats to me, but I grew up in the country. And even in my short stint living in the Bronx, I had no gang contacts, so I won’t pretend to know what all the different sorts of gang tattoos mean. But using tattoos as a designation for a grouping seems gang-ish to me. Or you could say it’s more like military tattoos and put a more positive spin on it, but it seems like a big responsibility for an author to be taking on.
Sure, throughout history, tattoos have been used as art and symbols of power or spirituality, but if you make up a symbol for your book, and some kid gets that tattooed on some strange part of his anatomy, is it your fault? They made the choice to put something permanent on their bodies, but you created the symbol. I’ve seen people with Dark Marks and lightning bolts. I’ve seen a shocking number of tattoos based on the Goonies movie. I have more than one friend with a tattoo of the Auryn symbol. And they all seem to be very happy with them. But what about that one dude who gets a big ole Dark Mark on his arm and then three years later hates it? I mean first of all, getting the dark mark is a little weird, but should J.K. Rowling feel guilty for inspiring such an unfortunate life choice?
Maybe I’m placing too much responsibility on the shoulders of authors. Just because you write about dragons doesn’t mean anyone who’s read your book and developed a lizard fetish should blame you. But as an author with her first book coming out this year, it’s something I worry about. I don’t want to be the one to cause laser removal later in life. So, please think before you ink. And if my book inspires you to get a tattoo (as it has me), make sure you choose a good artist to do the deed!