Published on March 27th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Sixteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain is about to take on the biggest heist of her life: impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasn’t been easy, and Jo is hoping to cash in on a little safety, a little security. She finds her opportunity in the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family with ties to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.
When Jo takes on Vivi's identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her back with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. As hidden crimes come to the surface, and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold onto an illusion of safety, or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In Her Skin is the third novel from YA author Kim Savage, and centres on the story of a young homeless girl who takes on the identity of a missing schoolgirl in order to live with ‘family friends’ and get off the street. But her new home life may be more complicated than she imagined.
At first I thought In Her Skin was going to be a magical realism book, because it opened with the suggestion that Jo, our homeless con, could ‘take on’ the persona and characteristics of those she was imitating. For example, when she played a blind girl it actually affected her vision. This suggestion seemed to have been abandoned pretty early on in the book as Jo wasn’t any better at pretending to be missing girl Vivi than anyone else would have been. Pretty early on there were hints dropped that maybe Vivi’s disappearance wasn’t the way it was sold to the authorities, comparing her with the real-life case of Madeleine McCann, who allegedly also disappeared from an unsupervised room while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. This meant that not only was the major conflict the fact that Jo was conning everyone into believing she was Vivi, but the second major conflict was ‘what actually happened to Vivi?’
I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters in this book. Jo seemed really bland, almost lacking in personality. For someone who was living on the streets and stealing identities, she was the good girl foil to reckless, heartless, manipulative Temple, Jo’s now adopted sister. It was almost like it might have been hard enough to get the audience to like a homeless con pretending to be a missing girl with dead parents, so Savage made her a ‘good girl’ who was afraid to break the rules. Of course, Jo’s biggest fear was that she would be found out and made homeless again, so she left behind her prostitute boyfriend Wolf without even a goodbye. My biggest issue was the fact that Jo was still living in the same city where she had already established herself as Jo, so not only could Wolf identify her, but so could people like the cops or welfare workers, but that was never a real concern.
I sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, but that’s not true. In truth, the book was just kind of blah. I certainly didn’t hate it or find it frustrating like Beautiful Broken Girls, and Temple was a fun, unhinged character to read about, but I really couldn’t say that I liked the book, even though I did enjoy Jo’s realisation that maybe her life was in danger. I also really liked reading about Temple’s parents but I think it might even be more enjoyable to re-read once the plot twist is discovered.
I think part of my frustration largely stems from reading an ARC that was nowhere near ready to be released to a reviewing audience, because there were so many words that should have been deleted to help a basic understanding. I won’t take any direct quotes because I did read an ARC but they were, for example, along the lines of ‘I walked rain down the street’ or ‘The small room right was painted purple’ or weird stuff like that, just random words in the middle of sentences that left me struggling to find the meaning. The editing clearly still had a long way to go, including proper nouns in some cases. It wasn’t on every page, or even every chapter, but enough to notice and get frustrated at.
I really loved Savage’s After the Woods, I was disenchanted with Beautiful Broken Girls, and I haven’t been convinced by In Her Skin, although I do think there is an audience for this book that maybe I’m just not a part of.