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Review: Skin by Donna Jo Napoli

by Dona Jo Napoli

I've been a long time fan of Napoli's fairy tale-themed work like Zel and The Magic Circle. I was curious to see if her writing would continue to work its magic in a contemporary setting.

Sep, a sixteen year old, wakes on the first day of school to discover her lips have gone white. Horrified, she grabs the first lipstick she can find to mask the discoloration. When the doctor can't immediately diagnose and fix the problem, she begins to panic – especially as other white blotches appear on her skin. Sep just wants to be a normal teenager, so she struggles to hide her skin from her friends and crush. Convinced she has a terrible disease, Sep becomes reckless, pushing her new boyfriend to rush the relationship so that she can experience true love before he discovers she's a freak and leaves her forever.

Sep is an emotional, hormonal, and extremely realistic teenager. Her panic and desperation to hide her skin disease was something I could really identify with. When I was in high school I suffered from psoriasis - a skin condition that creates flaking red patches - and I was desperate to hide the the marks on my skin. As an adult, it doesn't bother me that much, but back then I was convinced I was a freak and the ugliest person in school. But Sep's paranoia goes far beyond anything I ever mustered up, and she does some truly terrible things to the people around her. Her fear that she is becoming a monster is fully realized – but it's all in her personality, not her appearance.

I also liked Sep because she's one of those rare young adult heroes that loves science and dance. She's equally comfortable using a microscope in the lab or dancing with her fellow Jazz Dance Club members. Usually, characters fall into standardized “artist” or “geek” roles; it was nice to have someone who embraced both.

The romance with Josh seemed sudden, and a little out of left field, but I chalk that up to Sep's rather unstable state upon discovering her skin is turning white. Her relationships with Devon (her best friend) and her family were very well done – utterly believable. It felt like I was reading about real people, and I really appreciated that.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Skin, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Sailor Moon Vol. 6 by Naoko Takeuchi
2011: The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson
2010: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
2009: Discussion Question: Back to school, back to textbook spending…
2008: The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner


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