Skin Deep

(2 reviews with an average rating of 5 out of 5)

Publisher: Electric Monkey

The car crash that left her best friend dead has left Jenna with scars both emotional and physical. Every glance in the mirror makes her want to hide away; school is an ordeal; and she increasingly feels isolated from both friends and family. Worst of all, the boy who caused the accident, Steven, is still swaggering around their small rural community, threatening Jenna and her family.

Jenna feels as though her life is over, but then Ryan turns up - a tall, good-looking young traveller who lives on a canal boat. Unlike anyone else Jenna has ever met, Ryan immediately sees beyond her scars, and helps her regain her confidence in herself - although she soon learns that he has his own problems to deal with, not least caring for his mother, who has bipolar disorder. But as Jenna and Ryan draw closer together, dramatic events take place that threaten to keep them apart.

Although the starting point is Jenna’s situation and her attempts to come to terms with her severe facial scarring, this is not a book ‘about’ disability, but rather a contemporary romance with a healthy dose of murder-mystery. In addition, Ryan’s mother has bipolar condition: mental health issues feature far too scarcely in teenage fiction and here Laura Jarratt ably illustrates just how debilitating bipolar disorder can prove to be.

Jarratt deals sensitively with a range of challenging and provocative themes in this moving young adult romance. The story unfolds in the voices of both Ryan and Jenna through alternating first person narratives: Jarratt's characters are always completely convincing, and her writing style is direct, pacy and assured. With some unexpected plot twists, this compelling love story will keep readers engaged from beginning to end, and leave them with plenty to think about.

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