Book review: Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt

Ugly people don’t have feelings. They’re not like everyone else. They don’t notice if you stare at them and turn away. And if they did notice, it wouldn’t hurt them. They’re not like real people. Or that’s what I used to think. Before I learned… 

After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna is permanently scarred. She struggles to rebuild her life, but every stare in the street, every time she looks in the mirror, makes her want to retreat further from the world. Until she meets Ryan. Ryan’s a traveller. When he and his mother moor their narrow boat on the outskirts of a village, she tells him this time it will be different. He doesn’t believe her; he can’t imagine why this place shouldn’t be as unwelcoming as the rest. Until he meets Jenna. But as Jenna and Ryan grow closer, repercussions from the crash continue to reverberate through the community. And then a body is found…(From

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt is a sweet, thoughtful contemporary romance with a main character you can’t help but fall head over heels for. After being injured in a horrific car accident which killed her best friend, fourteen year old Jenna is struggling to come to terms with the facial disfigurement she suffered when the car set on fire. Jarratt introduces Jenna at her lowest ebb and doesn’t shirk from honestly showing us the bitterness and self consciousness she feels. I believed in Laura straight away.

The book is told in alternating chapters between Jenna and sixteen year old Ryan, who himself is an outcast in society due to his travelling background. I love this style, as I’ve said many times before, and Laura Jarratt perfectly captures both characters and allows us to get to know both. Ryan himself was for the most part charming. Intelligent and sensitive, he’s the first person to see beyond Laura’s scars due to his own experiences at being stereotyped. And there’s a few shirt off moments to get reader’s hearts beating. Especially when it’s against the backdrop of a canal and narrow boat. This would have been my teen dream a few (ahem) years ago, I’m sure!

But I didn’t always get on with Ryan as much as I wanted to. At times I found him a bit manipulative of Jenna and arrogant. I did like the fact her parents showed a great interest in this book and thought the relationship with both her mother and father were very well created and realistic, her dad being overbearingly protective and her Mum trying to keep the peace and understanding both sides. They could have been my own. I really enjoyed how Laura Jarratt  challenged stereotypes with Jenna and in particular Ryan and the message was clearly about looking deeper than the surface. I was a bit disappointed then that Ryan’s Bi-polar suffering mother came across as a bit stereotyped, but that’s perhaps due to her condition and character not being explored so very much. I would’ve liked to see and understand more of her and Ryan’s relationship, especially as this is a determining factor to Ryan’s personality.

With the alternating chapters and easy writing style I flew through Skin Deep in a couple of days. A little mystery also gave the book an edge and kept me turning pages. Laura Jarratt’s debut is certain to wow fans of contemporary teen fiction and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Published by Egmont (UK) March 2012
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review

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