From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–Donnie, 14, has a dysfunctional family. His parents, completely ineffective, constantly rage at one another. His sister, Karen, 16, is anorexic and storms around screaming profanities and lying. Donnie is simply becoming invisible. The outcast at school, he suffers from ear infections and lays low, watching his sister starve herself. He tells of his infatuation with his sister's best friend and of the humiliation he suffers at school. Readers know from the first page that Donnie finds Karen dead; his recounting of the preceding years is heartbreaking because of his sincere love for the sister who has been his keeper, and because of the anger and betrayal he feels during her physical and emotional descent. Vrettos tends to interject distracting moments of slapstick, and the character development is uneven. The father, in particular, is inexplicably one-dimensional in his failure to communicate with his family other than by manhandling and shouting. The well-meaning mother is simply ineffectual, alternately coddling and lashing out. Their constant arguing becomes background noise that neither moves the plot forward nor illuminates the family's problems. In an ending that feels hopeful yet too expected and tidy, Donnie finds some actual friends and resolves to leave his family's problems behind as he pursues his own life. The insight into the protagonist as the invisible one in a highly dysfunctional family makes Skin
worth considering for large collections.–Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS
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Gr. 8-11. Like Sonya Sones' Stop Pretending
(1999), this devastating novel plumbs the anguish of a teen facing a sibling's illness. First-time novelist Vrettos' gloves-off approach is apparent from the opening page, in which 14-year-old Donnie fruitlessly gives CPR to his elder sister, who has starved herself to death. The first-person narrative then recounts the year leading to the tragedy, hinting at how parental strife may have triggered or magnified Karen's anorexia and dissecting how Donnie's emotional withdrawal parallels his sister's wasting. Memorable language ("My sister looks like she could fold inside a paper cup") sharply etches the particulars of Donnie's experience, though at times Vrettos' allusive writing style clouds the significance of certain plot elements, such as Donnie's chronic ear infections and his bond with a rebellious cousin. But the overwhelming alienation Donnie endures will speak to many teens, while his honest perspective will be welcomed by boys--so often the terrified bystanders in anorexia battles--as an alternative to the girl-focused, patient-centered titles typical of fiction about eating disorders. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved