Book Review: Skin by Donna Jo Napoli


Title: Skin
By: Donna Jo Napoli
Author Info: Website | Goodreads
Age Group: Young Adult +
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic
Publication Date: August 6th, 2013
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Amazon Childrens Publishing


My lips are white.

Sixteen-year-old Sep stares into the bathroom mirror. It's not some weird lipstick (she never wears lipstick). Her lips are just white. In a panic, she digs up an old lipstick and smears it on her colorless lips. But soon, more and more white spots begin to bloom, spreading their chalky tendrils across her olive brown skin. Does she have a disease? Is she turning into some kind of freak? Sep is usually the one who knows all the answers. With a quicksilver mind and a supple body, she's happiest when she's delving into the mysteries of animal biology or giving herself over to sweet, hot moves in Jazz Dance Club. Unlike her best friend, Devin, she's never been in a rush to get a boyfriend. But as the white blotches spread, her dating days, like the endangered species she studies seem numbered. So when Joshua, a boy she's always liked, makes a flirty advance, she wonders: why not grab pleasure while she can. Frank, funny, and full of passion, this is the empowering story of a strong gifted teen who, as her life spins out of control, desperately tries to prove to the world and herself that she is deeper than skin. Summary and image from Goodreads.

WHY I WANTED TO READ SKIN BY DONNA JO NAPOLI: I wanted to read something out of my comfort zone and Skin, by Donna Jo Napoli, was definitely not my normal go to book. Considered a realistic YA contemporary, I was intrigued by the books description, and how unlike it was from the normal young adult fiction that I'm use to reading. The books I'm familiar with by Donna Jo Napoli, usually revolve around the exploration of a fairy tale, and this was a true exit from that style. I was curious to see what Skin was really all about.

SETTING AND SUMMARY: The story of Skin revolves around sixteen-year-old Sep and two coinciding events that will dramatically change her life forever. One morning Sept wakes up before high school to realize her lips have turned completely white. In turn, she tries to hide them with lipstick, something she has never worn before and causes her unwanted attention. Just as unexpectedly, Sep gains the attention of Joshua, the school’s popular football captain, and her former childhood friend. Soon Sep learns she has Vitiligo, a skin disorder that will turn patches of her skin, now olive, white. As Sept’s Vitiligo rapidly advances, so does her relationship with Joshua, but soon she is filled with inner turmoil as it becomes increasingly more difficult for her to hide her condition from him. As Sept becomes desperate to hide her changing skin from Joshua, she makes a decision that will change her forever. In fear of losing Joshua, she decides to become intimate with him. Sep soon realizes she can longer hide her secret from Joshua, and others. What follows is a personal journey of a young teen who makes a lot of mistakes on the way to learning how to be true to herself.  That in order to be loved, you must first love yourself.

MY THOUGHT AFTER READING THIS BOOK: How in the world am I going to convey the ups and downs this story put me through. The amazing depth of "feels" this book brought for me, and my conflicting emotions about the some of the subject matter in Skin. Why I felt some moments were brilliant and others not so hot.

CHARACTERS: As a character Sep took me on a emotional roller coaster of a ride. There were moments of pure idioticalness and then compelling moments of wonder and brilliance. The range of conflicting emotions was easy to feel through Sep, and ones I will not easily forget soon.

Sep’s family and friends also played an important role in the story skin, and for me I was able to easily identify with her mother.

I’m conflicted about Joshua. There were moments in the beginning of Skin that I really liked him, especially when Sep and Joshua were first getting to know one another. Later, I was disappointed in his character when he agreed to let the relationship progress so far so fast. In the end, I felt sorry for him, as he was kept in the dark so long about Sep’s condition. She literally took his choice away from him, assuming he would just let her go. I completely understood his anger and disappointment with Sep.

THE ROMANCE: There is definitely a romance between Joshua and Sep.

SWOON LEVEL: Amore. Although rated Young Adult, Skin contains sexual content and mature themes.

 WHAT I LIKED: Donna Jo Napoli did a amazing job of getting me to “feel” connected not just to Sept, but her family as well, especially her mother.  The turmoil Sep was going through in the story was evident throughout. I felt right along with Sep the emotional high she has when she gains the attention of the school’s football captain, and the emotional lows as she discovers she has Vitiligo, and it is rapidly spreading. My heart just about broke when I was reading a scene where the mother and Sep visit the doctors for the first time and discover she has Vitiligo. I felt for her when she made mistakes, and in the end, I admired her bravery. So I applaud the author’s ability to not only convey these emotions, but to carry me along Sep’s roller coaster of a journey.

 WHAT I DID NOT LIKE: Unfortunately, I was not happy how the situation was handled regarding Sep's physical relationship with Joshua took form in the book. I totally “get” where Sep’s character was coming from, but I would have liked it handled with more finesse. It was pretty blatant, and too explicit in my opinion for a YA book. It almost seemed like it was for shock value, and for me it took away some of the depth and beauty of the story.

THE ENDING: Skin was a hard book for me to review. I had so many highs and lows with this book, that it was hard for me to rate it. Part of my mind set was YA, and although I enjoyed the actual story, it's mature content threw me off.

MY RATING: 3 stars. I liked it.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Although it is considered a realistic YA contemporary, I feel it would be more appropriate for a older reading age due to some of it’s mature content.

PLEASE NOTE:  This was an ARC I received from NetGalley and the publisher.

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