Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: Strange in Skin by Sara V. Zook

Strange in Skin is a well-written story, edited to keep out most grammatical and production hiccups, and should appeal to younger audiences, wanting to escape the day-to-day and fantasize about "first" or "true" love along with youthful rebellion. Though the heroine, Anna, acts more like a lovesick puppy of sixteen in the beginning than a dowdy 22-year-old ready to bloom, the author provides a story line that gives her the opportunity to grow. That's the strong upside.

I don't read or review fantasy often, but dipped my fingers into this book because of the mystery aspect. It's almost a shame the fantasy element is there at all. Fantasy really doesn't show up until 40% through the book, and isn't really that central to the overall themes of good over evil and love conquers all. This would have made a solid coming-of-age mystery without the fantasy. Plenty of human evil needs to be overcome (deceit, prejudice, controlling and bad people, etc.). The fantasy element is the stuff of love struck teenagers but has little bearing on solving anything in this story. The fantasy, in my opinion, just messes up the message with should do in reality of doing what's right or following your heart.

Maybe books two and three will be more revealing, but each book needs to stand on its own merit. And in this one, Anna does a lot of moaning, crying, wailing, kvetching, internalizing, and falling in love with some "blue eyes" as she grows. She never attempts to investigate Emry's crime to help him. And some of her other investigative adventures harkens back to Nancy Drew with hot flashes. Two plot holes stopped me cold; however, I read on. To me, this is a 3, average, and that's not bad. But I suspect for the target audience, it's probably a middle-grade 4.

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