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Skin [Kindle Edition]

Donna Jo Napoli
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

My lips are white. Sixteen-year-old Sep stares into the bathroom mirror on the first day of school. It’s not some weird lipstick (she never wears lipstick), she didn’t bump her lips or chew on ice. Her lips are just–white. In a panic, she digs up an old lipstick and smears it on her colorless lips. But soon, more and more white spots begin to bloom, spreading their chalky tendrils across her olive brown skin. Does she have a disease? Is she turning into some kind of freak? Sep is usually the one who knows all the answers. With a quicksilver mind and a supple body, she’s happiest when she’s delving into the mysteries of animal biology or giving herself over to sweet, hot moves in Jazz Dance Club. Unlike her best friend, Devon, she’s never been in a rush to get a boyfriend. But as the white blotches spread, her dating days–like the endangered species she studies–seem numbered. So when Josh, a boy she’s always liked, makes a flirty advance, she wonders: why not grab pleasure while she can? Frank, funny, and full of passion, this compelling novel tells the empowering story of a strong, gifted teen who, as her life spins out of control, desperately tries to prove to the world–and herself–that she is deeper than skin.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Q&A with author Donna Jo Napoli

Q: What inspired you to write Skin?
A: I met a woman who had the skin condition vitiligo. It was so extreme, it took me a moment to be able to look her in the eye rather than look at her face. That bothered me, because I was worried she might have noticed the hesitation. And then I wondered whether she was born that way or at what point it had occurred. So I started reading, and I came across a lot of information about how teens deal (or don't deal) with vitiligo. Vitiligo can have strong negative effects on self-image and self-esteem, and when the onset is during the teen years, vitiligo sufferers report more nasty comments from others. Some experience severe depression; among those, risky behavior (unprotected sex, drug abuse) is not uncommon, including suicide attempts.

Q: Why are you so passionate about this novel?
A: I had a family experience that made me a pariah as a teen; people stopped talking to me, my friends weren’t allowed to spend time with me. My self-esteem tanked. So I immediately identified with someone who felt "marked" or "afflicted", as a lot of the teens I read about who have vitiligo described themselves. I made mistakes in handling my situation—not the same mistakes Sep makes—but serious mistakes. So I felt a strong connection to Sep's situation, and I wanted to explore the situation of a girl who makes serious mistakes in handling her problem.

Q: The contemporary realistic style of Skin seems very different from your other YA fiction, which is often structured around the exploration of fairy tales. Why did you decide to work in this genre? What were the challenges in writing it?
A: In most ways writing this book wasn't a different challenge from writing my other books. I had to do a lot of research, both on vitiligo and on high school culture today. Where the challenge lay was in characterization. So many books for teens are about people in extraordinary circumstances who rise to the challenge. It is exhilarating to read these things; it is comforting to believe that we might be able to rise to the challenge ourselves if we were in the main character's shoes. But not everyone rises to the challenge—and many people spend some time hiding from the challenge before they finally face it. Sep is an ordinary girl, not a born hero. She never chose to be different. She has no interest in being the center of attention. Vitiligo is thrust upon her and she hides. She is frightened and constantly hoping that the vitiligo will stop and she'll be only "slightly" different from her old self. But eventually she realizes that she's got to deal with it. And the first step is to accept herself—a really hard task, since “herself” keeps changing. That's the real challenge in life, I think. If you understand yourself and you accept those things you cannot change about yourself, you are then free to focus on the rest of life—on the things you can change, on the things you can do. That's when you flower as a human being. The hardest thing for me was to try to make Sep's behavior deplorable (not telling Joshua her situation is dishonest and unfair to him) while at the same time making the reader empathize with her. The things we do before we are ready to face our problems are often baffling to others. Family and friends may want to shake some sense into us. My job was to keep the reader on Sep's side even when they wanted to shake some sense into her.

Q: Why do you think it will speak to teens? What are you hoping teens will take away from reading the book?

A: I want very much for any reader to feel stronger after reading one of my books. With this novel, I'm hoping that teens will see that Sep really blew it—she is a good person basically, but she messed up pretty bad. In the end, though, she did catch hold of herself. All of us make mistakes. But with a lot of hard work and determination and just a little bit of luck, we can recover from those mistakes. Sep's life is always going to be complicated by the fact that she has vitiligo. But her personal relationships do not have to be complicated by it—and she knows that now. She's stronger now. My hope is that the reader will feel stronger along with her. I also hope that readers will develop some understanding of some of the challenges that people face when they have vitiligo or any other visually apparent "difference"—even acne (which can get severe). We are an appearance-driven culture in so many ways. It's hard to stand up to the pressure of having to look a certain way. What happens to the people who simply cannot "look a certain way"? Maybe some of my readers will rise to the challenge of becoming a warrior for someone who is ridiculed or shunned, in the same way that some of Sep’s friends become warriors to support her.

Q: Sep moves from having no sexual experience to daily sexual activity in a matter of weeks. Why did you rush it?

A: I didn't rush it. Vitiligo rushed it. Sep feels she's in a race. She fears she will become repugnant. So in her mind it's "now or never". Each splotch of vitiligo urges her on. She's breathless, racing so hard she can hardly think, so she gives up on thinking and simply races. Is this realistic? I read interviews with teens who face this fear (not only people with vitiligo, but people in other situations, too) and I concluded it was. I also tested out various drafts of the story over the years on teens, and listened to their reactions and revised accordingly. (My first draft was written in 2006. I tend to work on a YA novel for many years before I feel that it's ready to be published.)

From Publishers Weekly

Sixteen-year-old Sep is alarmed when her lips suddenly turn white, forcing her to pull out some long-buried pink lipstick to disguise them. Just as unexpectedly, Sep starts getting the attention of popular football captain Joshua, a former childhood friend, and learns that she has vitiligo, a disorder that will turn patches of her olive skin white. As Sep’s vitiligo and her relationship with Joshua quickly progress, she decides to keep her condition hidden through brightly colored lipstick, hand-drawn tattoos, and creative fashion statements. Readers will empathize with Sep’s growing panic and inner turmoil as Napoli (Lights on the Nile) deftly maneuvers them through this rare disease’s effect on a teenage psyche. However, Sep’s rapid intimacy with Joshua, including a graphically erotic sex scene, feels at odds with her lack of trust in how he will react to her vitiligo. Although there are dark moments as Sep faces who she is and what she looks like, her rebound at the end, after a hastily cobbled-together “coming out,” is abrupt. —Publishers Weekly June 2013

Product Details

  • File Size: 608 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1477817212
  • Publisher: Skyscape (August 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CEHQ47U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,796 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Intense September 6, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
When a young high school girl discovers she has developed a rare skin disease, vitiligo, her emotional rollercoaster to acceptance is a long and painful one at a time in her life when teen insecurities are intense under the best of circumstances. The course of the disease is unpredictable and Donna Jo Napoli's telling of this story in her latest novel, Skin details Sep's painful journey as she works through the challenges she now faces both internally and from those around her.

Are the characters in Skin realistic? Oh Yes! Donna Jo Napoli did a marvelous job painting each character, using broad, firm strokes on the characters and events that held the most immediate impact for Sep. People and events that, while important to the story, were not as emotionally and potentially devastating in the eyes of a teen were painted less vividly. The battle raging in Sep's mind and heart were torturous, her actions and reactions brought to life by Ms. Napoli were spot on, as were those of her peers, as they articulated their personal reactions to her. This author KNOWS her teens!

An ARC edition was provided by NetGalley and Amazon Children's Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks Depth July 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Skin is a good young adult book about a high school girl who suddenly develops vitiligo and is trying to do her best to deal with both the physical appearance it causes, and the emotional rollercoaster she has as a result. All the while, Sep, the main character is also trying to figure out how to deal with her first love. While the story is touching in some ways, I found the characters to be rather one-sided. I never felt like I could get a look into the soul of the various characters, which was especially disappointing for the main character. The story really felt like it was lacking details in nearly every regard; that is, the content of the story is aimed at young adults, but written in a simple style more suited to pre-teens. This mismatch in content/writing style really took all depth out of the book, and I felt more inclined to just hurry up and finish reading it, rather than try to savor every word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Thinking Pink" September 28, 2013
Format:Paperback
NetGalley Review

Skin by Donna Jo Napoli

Rev Title Thinking Pink

When I first encountered the premise of Skin, I must admit that I had supernatural expectations. Because of the genres I frequent, I thought that the disease would be demonic in origin, or that the white lips would signify the beginning of powers, brought on by the onset of puberty or something. Although I am immensely glad that I was wrong on all counts, I still find myself conflicted on Skin as a whole. It was good, but it left me empty inside, as opposed to empowered as the author likely intended. Allow me to elaborate.
To begin on a positive note, I loved the writing. Donna Jo Napoli did a great job expressing teenage confusion and angst. I felt that she portrayed Sep's fears of waking up with white lips on the first day of school rather well, and that her words allowed the reader to empathize with Sep on many levels. A lot of the feelings she wrote, from the rage, worry, to the self-imposed seclusion were believable and relatable. I am a fan of scientific and or literary comparisons to moan about life's unfortunate circumstances, and I thoroughly enjoyed Sep comparing herself to a swift to express the unfairness of life. "Swifts eat and mate and sleep in the air." "Life on the wing." It sounds hard. And dangerous. If you're asleep, you could fly right into a cat or an owl, mouths open wide. You could fly into the trunk of a tree and brain yourself and fall dead on the ground. And with all the windmills that are going up now, ugh, you could be sliced to smithereens". "If I were a swift, I'd probably become an insomniac." "Life shouldn't be like that. Everyone should have a chance to act smart and avoid dangers--so then if you don't, well; it's your own fault. "But maybe that's the point.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skin could have been fleshed out more September 19, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As described on the jacket and in several reviews, the book is about a schoolgirl who develops an issue that marks her as different from her peers. The book deals with how she is treated and how she responds with some non-sequiter romance thrown in. It was pretty hard for me to finish this book. I think that preteens or kids that are really concerned with not fitting in will eat it up, but the characters are not fully realized enough to keep the interest otherwise. It felt to me like a book that was plotted and then just marginally filled in. I gave the story four stars because I DO think it will resonate with certain kids and books don't necessarily have to be for wide dispersal to be recommended.

All the best,

Jay
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been a long time fan of Napoli's fairy tale-themed work like Zel and The Magic Circle. I was curious to see if her writing would continue to work its magic in a contemporary setting.

Sep, a sixteen year old, wakes on the first day of school to discover her lips have gone white. Horrified, she grabs the first lipstick she can find to mask the discoloration. When the doctor can't immediately diagnose and fix the problem, she begins to panic - especially as other white blotches appear on her skin. Sep just wants to be a normal teenager, so she struggles to hide her skin from her friends and crush. Convinced she has a terrible disease, Sep becomes reckless, pushing her new boyfriend to rush the relationship so that she can experience true love before he discovers she's a freak and leaves her forever.

Sep is an emotional, hormonal, and extremely realistic teenager. Her panic and desperation to hide her skin disease was something I could really identify with. When I was in high school I suffered from psoriasis - a skin condition that creates flaking red patches - and I was desperate to hide the the marks on my skin. As an adult, it doesn't bother me that much, but back then I was convinced I was a freak and the ugliest person in school. But Sep's paranoia goes far beyond anything I ever mustered up, and she does some truly terrible things to the people around her. Her fear that she is becoming a monster is fully realized - but it's all in her personality, not her appearance.

I also liked Sep because she's one of those rare young adult heroes that loves science *and* dance.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars one got bored with the characters very quickly
No depth to the story, one got bored with the characters very quickly.
Published 4 days ago by Harold
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely wonderful. It was a great read.
Published 23 days ago by Priscilla Kerr
3.0 out of 5 stars Young adult category. I was not aware of that ...
Young adult category. I was not aware of that...
nbd
Published 1 month ago by sue sogard
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done
This is a book pointed at teens and on that score it works extremely well. The situation and story may not appeal to some older readers, but it is totally on point for teens,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by W. Redmond
3.0 out of 5 stars young adult novel worth reading
Good book about very smart high school kids... tough issues handled well with humor and intellect ..... read with an open mind and just enjoy the characters and their reactions... Read more
Published 2 months ago by sandy b
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Unique
"The best thing in my life and the worst thing in my life were happening at the same time."

I don't really know how to review this without giving too much away. Read more
Published 2 months ago by L. Wilt
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting
This book was a good short story. It is a uplifting story of a young girl who chooses to handle her personal challenge in a positive way in the end.
Published 3 months ago by debbie
4.0 out of 5 stars truly lovely book
This is a very different writing style that I thoroughly enjoyef reading, I hope to see more from this author! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for teenagers
This is a well written book about issues that a teenager should read. It covers a range of issues that teenagers face everyday.
Published 4 months ago by deb
5.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous!
I loved it. The characters and story were engaging, thoughtful and enlightening from the first page to the last. Read more
Published 4 months ago by phishfool
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More About the Author

For all information about Donna Jo Napoli (books, events, biography, awards, contact information), please go to http://www.donnajonapoli.com

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