Review: Skin by Donna Jo Napoli


Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013
Publisher: Skyscrape/Amazon Pub.
341 pages
Paperback

First days of school are always stressful – but waking up to find your lips are white for no apparent reason, blows Sep’s stress levels through the roof. Diagnosed with Vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disorder, Sep starts counting down the time she has before white spots sprout up all over her body, brandishing her as a “freak”. Never the one to be worried about being in a relationship, or being in love, Sep questions if she’ll ever have the chance to experience these things once her appearance starts to change. Changing who she is, using whomever in her quest to experience as much as possible while she still looks “normal”, Sep’s grasp of herself both physically and emotionally, crashes. Before she completely loses herself, Sep needs to learn how she can be comfortable in her own skin – no matter what that skin looks like.

I really and truly felt for Sep. Not knowing what was going on with her body and the fear that goes along with that, I found really effectively portrayed. I thought the focus on Vitiligo, which affects your appearance versus your health, was an interesting twist on novels that center on illness. So much of the struggle that Sep faces is being able to look in the mirror no matter what reflection is staring back at her, and learning to love herself anyway. I felt her apocalyptic thinking that her life would shatter
completely when her Vitiligo became really noticeable was a genuine response, and one I think a lot of people given a similar diagnosis could have. But, the manner she goes about trying to experience as much as possible was careless and really selfish. I wanted more from Sep – but at the same time I understood her one-track mind focus. My overall response to Sep was a weird mixture of compassion, understanding and annoyance. 

The secondary characters were my favorite part of the story. As annoying and inappropriate as he was, Sep’s brother added a lot of humor and realism to the story. I also loved Sep’s mentor/ lipstick sales person “Slinky”. But, my favorite character by far was Sep’s friend Owen, the epitome of supportive and super nerd in the best way possible. Without the vibrancy of some of these characters my overall enjoyment of the novel would have decreased substantially – they are what kept me reading. My main problem with the novel was the consistency. For instance, Sep’s best friend and her relationship with the girl she babysits for are highly focused on at the beginning of the novel, but are barely referenced in the second half. I found Sep’s journey to be clear, but the focus of the plot points involving other character to be somewhat unbalanced, which made me question their purpose in the story.

My overall response to the novel is that while I generally liked the story and I think that Sep’s struggle to be comfortable with herself is a struggle that just about every reader will relate too, nothing really blew me away.

Rating 6/10

** I received a copy of this novel from the publisher to read and honesty review. I was in no way compensated.

This review and others like it are available at confessionsofanadultteenreader.blogspot.ca