Review: Under My Skin by Zoe Markham

Under My Skin

Genre: YA, horror
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication date: March 31st 2015
This edition: Kindle (copy received for review)
Where to buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US


Inside we are all monsters…

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart.

A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

A contemporary reworking of a British horror classic, Under My Skin follows seventeen-year-old Chloe into an isolated world of darkness and pain, as she struggles to understand what it really means to be alive.

Set against the familiar backdrop of everyday, normal teenage worries, Chloe’s world has become anything but…

Putting a YA spin on one of the most well-known works of genre fiction there is (and if you don’t already know which one, you soon will if you read this book) might sound intriguing, and it may also sound like a bit of a risk. I suspect it’s both, no matter which classic book you’re riffing on. In this case, thankfully, it works.

It works by taking the bare bones of an homage to the aforementioned classic and building a modern YA story on them. The animating factor (that was totally a pun, sorrynotsorry) is its protagonist and narrator. Chloe is the victim of a horrific accident that killed her mother, and is still very much in shock when this story begins. She’s left completely reliant upon her father as the truth about Chloe’s less-than-normal nature emerges, and it quickly becomes apparent that Dad is perhaps less of a victim in all of this as his wife and daughter have been…

I spent the larger part of this book wanting to smack Chloe’s dad. Yes, he’s suffered in his way alongside his daughter, but he spends most of the book needing a good hard lesson in empathy. That being said, of course, how many fathers really understand how to relate to their teenaged daughters…?

All homages aside, this story is largely about Chloe’s efforts to continue to fit in among other people her age, as well as to come to terms with all the ways in which she can’t do that anymore. It’s a twist on the story it’s retelling, if you will, that makes it a cleverly written story in its own right. This is all about having sympathy for the ‘monster’, and Zoe Markham gives us that in bucketloads here.

Now, this isn’t to say the story is perfect – if I’m going to nitpick, the sequence of events is (perhaps a little inevitably?) very straightforward; likely more so for people who’ve read That Classic Book and know how that story goes (myself included). It also bears mentioning that I had the Bad Guy pegged the minute he turned up. All in all, though, I really did enjoy this story for its flesh, as well as its bones… And I swear I’m not deliberately tossing body jokes in here. Well, not every time. (Trying really hard to keep quiet on the most obvious one. You’re welcome.)

From Chloe’s initial time spent cooped up in the cottage where she and her father are hiding – on account of his former employers who are, somewhat indirectly, responsible for their present situation – to her later attempts to fit back in at a new school and even to form a relationship, this is about her efforts to recover from what happened. It all makes the inevitable dramatic ending hit that much harder, because though her plans may be doomed to fail, I liked Chloe. She’s bookish and snarky and for all that she’s been through, and however long it might take her to find it, she’s got enough backbone to survive.

Or at least, I hope she does… The most telling thing for me about this book is that I want a sequel! But, we know how well those generally go, so I suppose I’ll just have to be satisfied with what we have here. And indeed, I am.









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