Tuesday, 13 March 2012

review: Under My Skin

by Charles de Lint
Razorbill, March 6, 2012
young adult urban fantasy
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

Josh Saunders never expected to become on of those freaks -- a Wildling, a teen capable of changing into an animal form. But once he's morphed once and back, it's clear he's stepped into an entirely different culture. Confiding in friends Marina and Desmond leads to accidental betrayals, and wildling Elzie's radical ideas are as risky as her good looks. And with the FBI are after them -- or at least a group with as much as the FBI -- it's clear that no matter where they run, trouble will be on their heels.
The cover:

First impression: what the donkey am I supposed to look at? The top half (poorly) mashes together a face and eyes, without any continuity into the bottom half, which admittedly has well-treated font and pretty cool skyline. But when bunched with the abundance of text sprawled across the cover... well. Suffice to say my sensibilities are offended.

The book:

Hmm. (There are times when I am so glad I run a book blog so I can write things like "hmm" in my reviews. Booklist or Kirkus Reviews wouldn't dig that, for sure.) This one was... odd. I'm going to try and break it down.

» The concept. It's nothing new, for sure, but here we get modern shape-shifting backed up by a solid steeping in First Nations folklore. References to the trickster Raven and the Coyote clan add authenticity to the Wildlings, or "cousins". As the characters spout the requisite questions, however -- why are we like this? how can do this? who else can do this? -- we're still left with dozens of questionable aspects ot the concept.

» The characters. Cory, Dillon, Chaingang, Tomas, Auntie Min, Rico, Solena, Elzie... is your head spinning yet? And don't forget the protagonists. We start off in Josh's head, which goes along nice and dandy until Marina's POV comes around. Her mooning puke-on-the-page feelings towards him ("...Josh. My Josh.") paired with the secret she hides hardly make her an appealing friend. Then as characters, one after the other, recite numberous shining qualities re:Josh, I grew more and more turned off by the obvious effort to make Josh the good guy. No. Not buying it.

» The credibility. From the dialogue to the (apparently) violently menacing villain, the credibility level wavers below believable.  Occasional slang phrases that seem off cause winces, while the lack of a single evil face makes it difficult to fear the "bad guy". Altogether, Under My Skin did not make for an enjoyable read.

Rating: 2.1 out of 5