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About the book
Skin Deep is a young adult book by Laura Jarratt. It was published by Electric Monkey on 5th March and the book is 320 pages long.
As a young teenager, Jenna was in a car crash that left two girls dead, one of them her best friend and her own face burned and permanently scarred. For nearly the past year, Jenna hasn't wanted to leave the house or look in a mirror - she struggles to get her previous life back, especially when all people do is stare and call her names. Then she meets Ryan, a travelling boy stopping through town with his mother. He also has a hard time, as people don't always give travellers the best reception. His mum tells him that this place will be different but he doesn't believe her, until he meets Jenna.
Jenna and Ryan grow closer, building their friendship and beginning to believe life might not be as bad as they once thought. The aftermath of the car crash is still having an effect on the town though and when a body is found, it might just be the end for Jenna and Ryan.
What I thought
Within the first few pages of Skin Deep, I was hooked. Laura Jarratt has a way of drawing the reader in immediately and not letting them go. The book begins with scenes of the car crash that ruined Jenna's life. Jarratt gives a hard-hitting and very emotional opening to the story which is why I wanted to read more. I had to know what happened to Jenna and what her life was like. She's had to live with a mask on her face to help the burns for months and she doesn't want to leave the house. What a hard thing that must be for anyone, let alone a 14 year old who will just becoming more aware of boys, her appearance and make-up etc. Jenna doesn't want to leave the house due to people staring at her all of the time and calling her names like 'Shrek', which really hurts her. Jenna was a wonderful character and it hurt me to read about her experiences sometimes. I felt so sorry for a girl so young having to go through so much.
The book is written with a dual narrative from Jenna and also Ryan. He's a travelling boy, moving from place to place on a boat with his mum. Although for different reasons, Ryan is also used to people staring at him a lot and calling him names. He was also a wonderful character. Whereas Jenna attempted to shy away from people who stared, Ryan was confrontational and stood up for himself. He hated the things people called him and wouldn't just stand there and take it. This did get him into a bit of trouble a few times as he seemed unable to control his anger. I also loved that Ryan really wanted to settle down and live a 'normal' life. All of the moving around was hard for him and his mum didn't really see that.
Jenna and Ryan's friendship was a very beautiful thing. Unlike with other young adult novels, this one is not really based around romance, although it does have that too. Jarratt gives Jenna and Ryan a friendship to work on, one that revolves around spending time with each other and really getting to know more about their lives. It was great to see each character begin to change slightly due to the influence of the other. Not changing in a bad way either. Jenna came out of her shell more, become more confident in herself without caring too much about her face. Ryan realised what he really wanted in life and how protective he could be over someone he really cared about.
Skin Deep also has a deeper plot revolving around the car crash. The community are still reeling from the event and not everyone can forget about it. This aspect of the plot was a good contrast to the friendship between Jenna and Ryan although it still tied in with that too. It was interesting to see different people's reactions to the crash and how it affected them. I was a little surprised to see so many people's reactions to Jenna be so negative though. In what seems to be a small town where everyone knows what happened, I would have thought they would be more understanding about why her face was the way it was.
This was a really lovely read and one with a deep meaning. Highly recommended.