Sunday, May 2, 2010


By: Robin Wasserman

Lia Kahn was perfect: rich, beautiful, popular -- until the accident that nearly killed her. Now she has been downloaded into a new body that only looks human. Lia will never feel pain again, she will never age, and she can't ever truly die. But she is also rejected by her friends, betrayed by her boyfriend, and alienated from her old life.

Forced to the fringes of society, Lia joins others like her. But they are looked at as freaks. They are hated...and feared. They are everything but human, and according to most people, this is the ultimate crime -- for which they must pay the ultimate price. (from


I picked this book up on the recommendation of fellow bookie Sara who uses it in her classroom as a modern option to Frankenstein. I thought this was a great book. It really had a lot of different facets that resonate, from the normal outcast teen, to how we deal with loss and change to the big idea of technology and how far it will let us go in terms of controlling the world around us.

In Skinned, we see the world as it is after a devastating, nuclear war. Cities have been destroyed, people are divided into those with the means to stay "linked in" through the vast network and those who don't. Those who don't suffer in the cities or corp-towns, just surviving. The "have's" on the other hand, want for nothing- they genetically engineer their children to screen out deformities and disease and screen in the desirable attributes, down to hair color and athletic ability. Their car's drive themselves and they live linked in to the network. The use of drugs to alter moods is socially acceptable (even for kids)- and if you should suffer a horrific accident, then the medicine and cures (for the "haves" at least) knows no bounds.

Which is where we find Lia- who after a terrible car accidents awakes in the hospital to find she has been downloaded. He brain sliced and diced and uploaded into a new body, making her effectively a machine with Lia's memories and personality. From there we see Lia lose everything as she goes from Ms. Popular to outcast as her sister Zo's status rises. Lia struggles to figure out where she fits in now that she is not human, but still retains a piece that is.

What I liked about this book is that it works on many levels. Take away the technology and we still see a girl struggling with fitting in. She is ostracized for something she can't help (and didn't choose to become), she faces humiliation at the hands of fellow students, disgust from her sister who feels guilty about Lia's "death", and outright hatred from the "faithers" a religious group who feel that Lia's situation is a sin and shouldn't be allowed to exist. It all brings up feeling of discrimination, stereotyping and bullying- which are issues that kids deal with on a day to day basis. Add in the technology and you see where we could be heading as we get more and more advanced in what we can do with computers.

I really liked Lia because she felt real to me- she lost everything and wasn't sure where she fit in anymore. I liked that she was willing to experiment with her new circumstance, allowing fellow outcast (but still very much human) Auden to be a shoulder to lean on and a cohort in seeing what the new Lia could do.

I also liked the "Mech" group Lia finds herself immersed in. They are shady at the outset, seeming to revel in what they can get away with as people who were downloaded. They literally push their bodies to the limit, jumping off waterfalls and getting shot, just because they can. It's only later that you see they are a group of kindred spirits who are searching for a way to feel something again, even though they preach forgetting the past (beacuse for most, the past wasn't as wonderful as Lia's), they are still trying to catch a moment of real feeling and emotion that eludes them in their new bodies. One little tidbit I was surprised to see, and which I liked and hope we hear more about in the sequel, was that some of the "skinners", who the public were told volunteered, really did not- and that despite their outword apparence as caucasion, were really from minority families in the city (like Chicago). I hope this goes somewhere, just because I really think Wasserman did a great job showing the parallels to real life in what Lia experiences in school and I feel like she could really show a parallel to race and poverty descrimination if she goes into how and why these kids were taken into the download program.

One thing I wasn't too happy with was the way the book ended. We see Lia make a decision as to what she needs to do and where she needs to be. We see a confrontation with her sister, Zo. Then it just kind of ends. I turned the page expecting to see more, but instead I got the preview for the next book. I know that many books use this as a cliff-hanger (especially when they know it will be a series), but I still felt it was kind of a let down. It didn't take any thing away from how I felt about the book's contents neccessarily and it certainly won't stop me from reading the sequel Crashed, but again, it was a bit abrupt and not really my cup of tea as far as endings go.

Overall though- great book. I definitly see how it could be used really effectively in a classroom setting, and I'd definitly going to go reserved Crashed and then settle in to wait for Wired (book 3).

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