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Skin Kindle Edition

4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Length: 352 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews 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: 1433 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1477816909
  • Publisher: Skyscape (August 6, 2013)
  • Publication Date: August 6, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CEHQ47U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,699 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

For all information about Donna Jo Napoli (books, events, biography, awards, contact information), please go to

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
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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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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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