Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt, published by Electric Monkey on 5th March 2012
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...
'Skin Deep' is a beautifully moving contemporary romance about a young girl scarred for life after a car accident which killed her best friend and a charismatic traveller called Ryan. I'd been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard about it. The initial extract I read got me really excited and when I finally got my hands on a finished copy I picked it up immediately. I'm happy to report that it was just as good as I was expecting.
The two main characters, Jenna and Ryan, have really interesting stories and I liked seeing how their two lives gradually intersected. Although it initially appears that Ryan is predominantly the one helping Jenna, as their relationship develops you can see that they're actually providing mutual support for each other. Jenna is still struggling with the repercussions of the accident which changed her forever and Ryan also has problems of his own. His mother is bipolar and he's had to learn to cope with her mood swings as well as the taunts from his peers about being a gypsy. Just as he teaches Jenna not to be so self-conscious about her face, she teaches him acceptance too. I felt a lot of empathy for both characters and what they have to deal with. They're both so well written that I could really place myself in their shoes at points in the story.
I also liked the dual narrative which alternated between the two of them as this provided a better understanding of their personalities, thoughts and feelings.
The romance between them is a sweet, tingly tale of first love and although Ryan is older and more experienced than Jenna, it was lovely to see how he treated her properly and with care and respect. He's never afraid to stand up for her and to stand by her side, even when others are quick to whisper behind her back. I loved the ending which I thought was very realistic and honest but I wanted to read more about them and found the end came far too quickly!
This was a fantastic book and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to recommend 'Skin Deep' to anyone looking for a romantic read with real heart. Much of the story is about the impact that one tragic event can have on peoples' lives and this was sensitively handled with real insight, compassion and empathy. I look forward to reading more by Laura Jarratt in the future.