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The Skin I'm In
by Sharon Flake
ISBN 1423103858 / 9781423103851 / 1-4231-0385-8
Publisher Hyperion Book CH
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Maleeka, the narrator of The Skin I'm In, is blacker than most of her classmates in seventh grade. She gets frustrated at being teased for her skin colour, that's like "a blue-black sky after it's rained and rained", by pupils who are also black--just a little bit less so. When Miss Saunders joins the school to teach as an experiment, on loan from an advertising agency, it is not just her posh clothes that make people talk but also her down-to-earth-attitude and her unusual face.
Sharon G Flake seemingly sets up a typical tale of adolescents coming to terms with their differences--visual and emotional--not least through the less-than-subtle title, However, despite the references to skin colour and teenagers' reactions to physical appearance, Flake treats her characters and story delicately. There are no blatant truisms about not judging a book by its cover, and the story works itself out without any need to hold forth on equality, whatever a person's background.
Maleeka's character grows and develops, particularly through her creative writing about a young black slave girl, which adds depth and imagination to what could be another high-school morality tale. Flake has reflected teenage fretting over right and wrong sensitively so that readers will sympathise with the characters while making their own subconscious judgments. --Olivia Dickinson [via]