Review: Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt

Publisher: Egmont
Published: 5 March 2012
Format: ebook
Rating: 4/5

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…

Skin Deep tells the story of a young girl, Jenna, coming to terms with being ‘ugly’. In the prologue we first meet Jenna, sitting in the back seat of a speeding car, surrounded by drugs, trying to fit in, then burnt in a horrific car crash. As the story progresses, we see the consequences of this accident unfold in some ways you would not expect, including a mystery murder.

This book seems to end with the resolution that Jenna has to to tell her late best friend what she really thought of her. But this resolution wasn’t nearly as important as Jenna accepting herself. The story is much stronger when it is about Jenna coming to terms with her disfigurement. The real conclusion is for Jenna’s character to have grown so that she accepts herself as she is and that for her to learn to survive on her own.

The dual narrative was an interesting take on a title about self-image. While it did become confusing at times and the style of voice needed more differentiation, it gave us another point of view. It also added to the mystery of the story’s murder, as we are not with both characters at all times.

Jarratt did a good job of keeping me guessing who the murderer was. The story is so focussed on Jenna’s relationships you don’t think to look outside her immediate contacts. Her red herrings distract enough to hide the real killer until the big reveal.

Jenna struggles with the typical teenage image angst, but with the twist that her peers validate her ugly image. Her conflict is added to the struggle of mourning for her dead best friend. Ryan is a particularly interesting character. While you could say he fills to stereotypical ‘outsider’ role, what is most fascinating is that, after the initial shock of seeing Jenna’s disfigurement, he is completely indifferent. He is not the ‘bad boy’, but a sweet young man who loves his mother and absent father figure deeply, though he would be loath to admit it.

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