March 5th 2012
Ugly people don't have feelings. They're not like everyone else. They don't notice if you stare at them and turn away. And if they did notice, it wouldn't hurt them. They're not like real people. Or that's what I used to think. Before I learned...
After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna is permanently scarred. She struggles to rebuild her life, but every stare in the street, every time she looks in the mirror, makes her want to retreat further from the world. Until she meets Ryan. Ryan's a traveller. When he and his mother moor their narrow boat on the outskirts of a village, she tells him this time it will be different. He doesn't believe her; he can't imagine why this place shouldn't be as unwelcoming as the rest. Until he meets Jenna. But as Jenna and Ryan grow closer, repercussions from the crash continue to reverberate through the community. And then a body is found...
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I first picked up Skin Deep, but I'd heard so many good things about it that I knew I just had to read it. What I found was a sort of British Perfect Chemistry/Pushing The Limits type book that I think I may have enjoyed even better than them.
Skin Deep manages to be intense and emotional and beautiful without overstepping the cheese which I was really impressed with. I rarely if ever rolled my eyes at Jenna and Ryan which is surprising because even in my favourite romances I roll my eyes frequently (what?! I have to maintain my high levels of cynicism at all times otherwise I'll melt.) I actually really enjoyed getting to see their relationship develop even though Jenna is only 14 (and no, I'm not a judgmental old woman.) It was actually pretty sweet and it was a fairly slow progression from friendship to love.
The fact that the book was told in dual perspectives also really made the story flow better for me, I think. It just seems right for these kinds of books to be told with two narrators so that you get to see how both the main characters are feeling and what they think of each other and what their lives are like and whatnot. It was interesting to get the contrasts between Jenna and Ryan's lives - Ryan having been judged for being a traveller in most of the places he's gone and having to look after his mother who sometimes has Bipolar episodes, and Jenna having to cope with life newly scarred from a terrible car accident in which her best friend died. The dual narratives really fleshed out the individual characters as well as helping the reader to understand the bond between these two and why it's so strong and important.
The backbone of the story is really Jenna and Ryan's growth as people and their relationship, but there is also kind of a murder-mystery towards the latter end of the book. I won't say too much about it, but I really liked that this aspect was put in, too, to tie everything in with Jenna's accident and the judgement Ryan gets because he's a traveller. I thought it was clever and helped to bring another dimension to the book.
I think that Skin Deep really treated stereotypes about things like Bipolar disorder and travellers really well without coming across as preachy by just making them all real people. It didn't feel like a 'this is why you're wrong for judging people by their background/looks/ect' book which it could have really easily been, and yet it still shows the prejudice that people face because of things like this just by things like Jenna's parents not wanting her to be around Ryan's mother because of her disorder. The balance really impressed me and I think that it got to the point without ever having to explicitly state the point and tell other people that they're wrong, you know?
So, yeah. I really enjoyed Skin Deep and I would recommend if you're a fan of books like those by Simone Elkeles or Katie McGarry and you want an extra degree of realism and a bit less cheese. A really, really great book.