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Skin    by Adrienne Maria Vretttos order for
by Adrienne Maria Vretttos
Order:  USA  Can
Margaret K. McElderry, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Although she is only two years older, Karen always takes care of Donnie during their parents' bitter, explosive arguments. She takes him outside, whatever the weather, and they sit on the front step until it's safe for them to go back inside. She is so organized that she packs a bag and hides it so that they'll have snacks and games, and later when they are older, homework to do. Life is always on edge. Anything can cause their dad's blow ups.

The summer before Donnie enters ninth grade their dad leaves. Karen stops eating. Her best friend and family watch helplessly as she goes from a curvy teenager to a waif so weak and fragile they are afraid to hug her for fear they'll hurt her.

It doesn't take long to die from anorexia. Donnie tells the story of Karen's life the year that she dies. Her unstable family tries to make things normal so Karen will eat. They encourage, demand, and beg her to eat. They watch her when she eats and worry when she doesn't eat. The games she plays to keep from eating are cunning and sad, but not as sad as Karen herself.

Life gets worse for Danny. He is sure he is becoming invisible both as school where he is friendless and at home where life revolves around making Karen eat. The pressure of being with her and watching her die is more than he can endure.

Danny's story is not so much about Karen as it is about those who love her and the helplessness they feel as she speeds towards disaster. From the first page, we know that anorexia is not a disease from which everyone recovers.

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