Robin Wasserman's Skinned is reminiscent of both Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series (reviews here, here, here, and here). Set in a future society, one in which the "haves" are clearly divided from the "have nots", Skinned explores questions of identity and humanity.
Lia Kahn has it all - she is beautiful and wealthy, a leader among her peers. Until, that is, she suffers a terrible car accident, one that nearly destroys her body. Faced with her imminent death, Lia's parents choose to download her memories into an artificial body. Lia still feels like herself (mentally), but she's now in a body that won't age, and doesn't require fuel. She's like the Bionic Woman, but without the super-strength. She resents this choice that was forced upon her. And she soon learns that other people, including members of her own family, resent her very existence.
Lia isn't particularly likable, but her voice is entertaining. For example:
"The last day I would have chosen--the last day I deserved--would have involved more chocolate", Page 3, ARC).
"Just for the record, I didn't do things because they were cool.
Things were cool because I did them" (Page 9, ARC)
The book's premise is intriguing, and the setting fully realized. I personally appreciated the details, dropped casually as background, about the changes in the world between now and time of Lia's story. This is the part that reminded me quite a bit of the Uglies books. Here are two examples:
""You used to be able to see them. Stars and planets and a moon," she said now, pointing at the reddish sky... I stared up, trying to imagine it, a clear sky, a million stars. Most of the vids I'd seen came from just before the war turned the atmosphere into a planet-sized atomic dust ball. (Page 73, ARC)
"The Faith party was for all those leftover believers who--even after the nukes and the Long Winter and the Water Wars of the western drought and the quake that ate California and the wave that drowned DC--refused to give up the ghost." (Page 87, ARC)
Lia's world is pretty bleak, and not one that I'd want to live in (libraries are defunct!), but there are compensations for the wealthy. Like the chance to have a body that doesn't age, and have your memories and personality able to be copied, so that you can effectively live forever. But are you alive, if you don't have a human body? If you can't taste chocolate? If you have to learn how to move your face to express emotions? If you don't have the possibility of death to make you appreciate life? As Lia adapts to her new reality, Robin Wasserman explores these questions.
Skinned is a fast-paced read with an unusual protagonist and a moody, compelling setting. Lia's physical situation is not a mystery - it is made clear very early in the book. However, readers will keep turning the pages to find out how she deals with her new reality. Skinned is the first book in a planned trilogy, and although I'm not in love with this book that way I am with, say, The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Hunger Games, I will certainly check out the other two books when they're published. Recommended especially for fans of the Uglies series.
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 9, 2008 (available now)
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and should be checked against the final book.
Other Blog Reviews: View from the Stacks
Author Interviews: Innovative, Bildungsroman, Bookluver-Carol's Reviews
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.