Thursday, September 10, 2009

SKINNED by Robin Wasserman

This isn't a negative review, I swear. But, I have to start this by saying the Heroine, Lia, is just another YA heroine, the cookie-cutter, generic kind. It seems to me there are only two YA heroines, the smart, cynical one like Lia and the Bella clone, and they simply change names, hair and eye color, and clothes from one novel to the next. I guess they're homogenized for the widest possible appeal.
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So, here's the thing, the intimate adventure of the Heroine is awesome (popular slang from my teen years) and, if you've hung out here long, you know how important that is to me. It makes me hope the publisher will trust this author to let her imagination go wild and do whatever the she wants with her stories and characters in the future. Maybe she already has. SKINNED is the first in a trilogy, I hear. Anyway, on with the review. http://www.robinwasserman.com/
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Lia Kahn is perfect. That's a euphemism for BORING. But, before you click away, you should know all that's thrown into the chopper when her automated automobile (this is near-future Science Fiction, but we're not supposed to say the SF word around girls 'cause, you know, girls don't like science) gets into a massive wreck on her way to fill in for her dopey sister at the daycare center. She wakes up, kinda, to learn her consciousness has been downloaded into a mechanical body because her real body was damaged beyond repair. She was smart and cynical to start with and now she's really ticked off too, but there's nothing she can do about it because she doesn't know how to make the mechanical body work yet. She's stuck, trapped, enraged, and this is where it gets interesting.
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Anyone who's been hospitalized for any reason can relate to Lia at this point in the story, especially if you're someone who previously assumed yourself invincible. Lia's helpless and immobile whereas before she was an accomplished athlete on her way to becoming a stereotypical Kick-Butt Heroine. That's what smart, cynical YA heroines grow up to be, you know. Toss her a weapon and bare her belly button, add a couple of vampires and she's in business.
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Think maybe this whole cynical thing is rubbing off on me? Whatever.
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Lia knows about Skinners. They're humans who've had their consciousness downloaded into mechanical bodies. They're looked down on as freaks, not human anymore, avoided, and definitely not invited to the best parties. She would rather die than be a Skinner. Of course, she can't see how being a Skinner is a lot more interesting, but we're readers so we can. Lia learns to communicate by blinking her eyelids at first, which reminds me of any person coming out of a coma. The next step is she learns to communicate by thinking really hard about what she wants to say and the automated computer voice speaks her thoughts.
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Lia hates the psychologist and just about everyone trying to help her and spends a great deal of time thinking about how all her friends going on without her, especially her boyfriend. It's like she died, but she gets to see everyone she knows get on with their lives via MySpace. She loves her boyfriend, Walker, but she's fairly certain he's probably already run off with the next set of perky boobs to bounce along.

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Then, Lia meets Quinn.

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Quinn's a girl whose physical body was messed up in a car wreck when she was three years old and she's been waiting all years and years to grow up so she could trade her vegitative physical body in for a mechanical which can walk and talk and lie on the grass at night and gaze up at the stars. At first Lia's a little put out by the suggestion that Quinn becomes her friend and helps her realize how grateful she has any kind of life at all. Quinn's also the standard issue smart, cynical YA heroine, but she's twisted enough to also appreciate.
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Finally, Lia gets to go home. Yippee. Her father insists she gets right back on that horse, metaphorically speaking, and sends her to school first thing Monday morning. Lia's friends try and so does her boyfriend, but what Lia's been and is going through really is beyond them. Meanwhile, Lia works through the loss as best she can. It's interesting to note that, while the regular humans don't get Lia, they also regularly use drugs to 'enhance' their lives, apparently with negative side effects. They're fully human and can feel and experience everything fully, but they use drugs. All the regular humans do. It's normal, legal, and Lia doesn't get it anymore.
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Then, the Catalyst. Lia goes for a little walk one night, wanting to feel and see and experience things and get away from all the regular humans who don't get it. While out, she's attacked by a man, a religous fanatic who's a part of a group who thinks all Skinners, regardless, are evil because they're not fully human and their 'graven images.' He thinks he can do whatever he wants to her and with her because, after all, she's just a machine.
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Lia effectively fights off the attack. In the process, she FEELS. She really FEELS. Something clicks and after that...
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Well, I can't tell you anymore without giving too much away.
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Suffice it to say, Lia starts out a cookie cutter YA Heroine for a darn good reason. It's boring. Normal is boring. Perfect is boring. Being forced outside yourself, now THAT's interesting. That's when you really start to live.
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If you've ever watched Star Trek you'll probably recognize this theme. It brought to mind a particular Next Gen episode. I believe it was called 'Measure of the Man' in which Commander Data, an android, is put on trial to decide if he deserves the same rights as biological humanoids. While considering the dilemma, Picard discusses it with Guinan, played by African American actress Whoopi Goldberg. She says something like, "If you don't consider someone human then you don't have to care about them or respect them. You can do whatever you want to them and with them and you don't have to feel guilty about it."
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Told you it wasn't a negative review.
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5 comments:

Yunaleska said...

I want this book right now!!! Definitely my sort of book. *wonders off to the library website...*

Yunaleska said...

Should have waited for this reply: Library doesn't have it! Will buy it as soon as I can :)

Kimber An said...

Omigoodness, is it really possible your library is worse than mine? We used to live in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, and their library system is awesome. The further we move away from it the worse it gets. And sometimes I don't always get the ARC free in the mail. Especially when it comes to YA SF, which is so hard to find. Sometimes I actually have to buy books and the local independent bookstores are wonderful. If I order a book through them, I don't have to pay shipping. But, I did find SKINNED at my library.

etchinstone said...

Currently, I think the worst libraries are in Philadelphia at the moment (since every single one of them closed down recently) :/

But on a happier note, this was a really interesting review. It sort of reminds me of Uglies (Scott Westerfield) and I _loved_ that book. I don't know where people get the idea girls don't like science - I know I do...and based on your review, I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for Skinned.

-Rosalind @Etched In Stone blog

Yunaleska said...

I love Uglies!

Don't forget, I'm in England...Europe England. For us Skinned was only out in August. It could be a while before it hits the library.