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Skin Deep by E.M. Crane

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I've been excited for Skin Deep since I first glimpsed its cover.  The green of it and the pretty flowers that edge and layer themselves around the border instantly caught my eye and appealed to me.  It's just gorgeous.  After devouring this book shorly after it came in the mail, I'm happy to report not only does the book have a beautiful face in person, inside it holds a beautiful story about a girl who is carefully unravelling her role in her world.

Like Shakespeare said, all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.  Andrea Anderson knows her part--she's a total nobody.  Shy and unsure of herself, Andrea spends much of her time watching the other players in the halls of her high school.  The jocks, the geeks who are worse off than she is, the popular girls, the goths.  Her incisive observations about them suggests she knows their parts better than they do.  At home, she contends with an overbearing and selfishly unhappy mother.  Life for Andrea is a lonely show with a seemingly endless run and little variation until she takes a job walking her ailing neighbour, Honora Menapace's dog, Zena.  It seems simple enough at first, but Honora and Zena open up Andrea's world in ways she never could have imagined.  It's through their friendship that Andrea quickly realizes all roles in high school and in life are not so definitive as she assumed--including her own.  Andrea is about to discover--as the back of the book says--what's underneath when you scratch the surface.

Skin Deep is currently heading my Best Reads of 2008 list.  Andrea's voice is instantly engaging and the story she narrates is a thoughtfully complex and emotional one.  Crane's prose is vivid (her descriptions set off my senses) and honest--so honest it hurts sometimes, but in a good way.  Honora Menapace is a woman who I'd love to have met (if she was real!), but I'm glad for the privilege to have read about her.  Crane shows great care for her characters through her writing, and I always got the feeling that secondary characters wandered off the page and into their own lives, that they didn't just stop with the book.  I love that.  The act of creating, art and nature weave itself throughout the story, in a lovely thread.  Some of my favourite passages were about Zena, the Saint Bernard.  The respect and warmth for animals and nature was lovely and refreshing to read. 

Skin Deep asks the deeper questions and forces you to do the same, never forcing answers, but suggesting beautiful, compelling and sometimes heartbreaking possibilities.  This is a beautiful book. If you enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson and John Green--or just good, thoughtful books in general--you'll enjoy E.M. Crane's debut.  Don't miss out.

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#1 - March 14, 2008, 08:19 PM
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 08:23 PM by courtney »


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