Friday, 16 June 2017

Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson

Published by Accent Press on June 15, 2017


Firstly the blurb for Skin Deep is brilliant – I found it impossible to not be drawn in – and really teases the story well. I was eager to read this book the moment I read the blurb. Normally I read them once and forget all about them by the time I start the book, but this one I couldn’t get off of my mind and this had me starting Skin Deep a lot earlier than I had planned.

Skin Deep is the story of Diana and Cal and what it feels like in a world where everyone is already judging you, where appearances mean so much.

Diana is a model turned art-student. She’s beautiful, but she’s not interested in using her looks for her career, something which certain people around her don’t understand, or don’t want to understand. Art is Diana’s passion, whilst modelling takes Diana back to a place in her life she doesn’t want to revisit. Diana meets Cal when he is a child. Cal was born facially disfigured and because of that his parents neglected him, hiding him away because of how he looks. As he grows up, we see that his mental health has been impacted, and also how Diana has decided that he is the perfect muse for her art.

The author sets a scene really well. Whilst I didn’t connect with the story straight away, I had already built up a vivid picture of the 1980s Manchester she was trying to portray early on. There was lots of drugs and drinking, and the world felt a bit of a murky place, which leads on similarly to the art world Diana craves being a part of. It was quite shocking to learn about the way Cal’s parents had hid him away, as well as sad to see how they were living in a haze without seeing what they really had in life.

Diana was a model when she was younger. She’s beautiful, but has had that beauty abused from the person who should be closest to her from a young age. Diana has no interest in pursuing modelling – she loves art and wants to be recognised for that, not her looks. Though I enjoyed reading about her, I never really liked Diana. There were aspects to her personality I could understand, and I found her interesting, but I couldn’t warm to her. At times I felt this made Skin Deep a bit hard-going as there was very little about her character that endeared me enough to read on, but despite this Skin Deep offered a lot more than that so it did keep me reading and the further into the book I was, the more I couldn’t put it down.

The relationship between Diana and Cal was utterly fascinating and the more I read it, the more I wanted to talk about it. Parts of it just didn’t feel right to me as it felt like Diana was using Cal for her own gain. He was her muse and she was taking advantage of him because he was different from the rest. Often it felt like Cal himself was not what she was interested in. It was Cal’s disfigurements, his “ugly” that Diana wanted, because that, contrasted with her “beauty”, would make for great art. It works at giving Diana recognition as an artist, but as this happens I felt her relationship with Cal becomes very one-sided as she needs him to help her progress further whilst leading him on at the same time. Honestly I was hooked trying to find out how it was all going to end up.

Skin Deep is such a powerful novel and I still can’t get it off my mind. Everything about it was utterly thought-provoking. There’s a surprisingly gritty feel about this book which gets under your skin in the style of a killer psychological thriller, leaving you turning the pages quickly to find out what happens next but feeling that bit of apprehension and discomfort at the turn the story is taking. The way this book develops had me engrossed. I would have liked for the author to have touched on mental health more, as this would have made it even grittier and more relevant in a time where mental health is much more well-known and well talked about. Without this, however, Skin Deep was still a wonderfully thought-provoking read, a difficult subject well written with characters and situations that linger on my mind weeks after finishing the book.



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