Children's Literature - Susan Curry
The main character, seventeen-year old Katherine, sustained horrific burns as a three year old. She was burned beyond recognition and has undergone numerous skin grafts. She views the hundreds of grafts as just part of her life, how she manages this is well portrayed by Gervay. Katherine's desires are no different than any other young female. She is adamant about living as normal a life as others despite the fact that they see her as disabled. She wants an active social life, friends, and a boyfriend just like any other girl her age. She does not accept the grafts as a disability. When offered separate school instruction she refuses. This does not mean she is not insecure at times. The reader will get to know the Katherine who is angry about the scars and pities herself. Some of her class mates bully her and make jokes about the scars. She deals with those insecurities and her imperfections and grows. Helping her is her family. She lives with her Italian mother and a twenty-two-year old sister, both of whom provide love and warmth. Her mother reminds her that she is a beautiful person inside and outside. Her father abandoned the family at the time of the accident which resulted in the burns. The book is unique in that it is written with flashbacks in italics, giving the reader information about what the past fourteen years have been like for Katherine and her family. This fast paced book has dialogue that moves the plot forward. The characters are inspirational. The book forces anyone with a disability to challenge him/herself to develop coping skills and to recognize that they have more hope and stamina than previously realized. This book with help readers develop real empathy for those facing tough challenges, such as disfiguring scars or disabilities. Reviewer: Susan Curry
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—High school is hard enough for teens who look normal, but for Katherine, who fell into a fire when she was three years old and endured 37 surgeries to repair the damage, it's even worse. She is getting ready to graduate and seeking independence, but she is self-conscious about her appearance. She is sensitive to the fact that Mum, who tells her she is beautiful, tries to give her confidence and works hard to make a living for her and her sister as their father left shortly after the accident. Katherine holds back tears when a classmate makes a rude remark, and a boy whom she dates a couple of times withdraws. Even though she is needy at times, her best friend is always supportive. Katherine is a swimmer, but when the coach recommends that she compete in the Paralympic Games, she realizes that others see her as handicapped instead of scarred, and she pushes for more surgery. Whenever readers think that Katherine is moving forward and accepting herself, she has a setback; she refers to herself the Beast. Readers will wait for the Beast to retreat for good and cheer when it finally does. This hopeful, heartfelt novel will give teens an understanding of what it means to have a reason to be self-conscious. Librarians won't be able to keep it on the shelf—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI
This Australian import powerfully depicts the lasting damageof third-degree burns.
Katherine, almost 18, suffers from the many aftereffects of the severe burns she sustained as a toddler. She lives with her loving older sister, Rachel, and her slightly controlling Italian mother. Her father, who abandoned the family shortly after Katherine's accident, is now trying to reestablish a relationship with them, one of many issues Katherine faces. As she contrasts her life to that of her lovely best friend, Jessie, she deals with bullying by a classmate, the clumsy, ambiguous romantic advances of William, the willingness of some adults to classify her as disabled while she strives for normalcy—by relentlessly driving herself on a swim team, for example—and, primarily, her quest to improve the appearance of her scars. Her italicized inner monologues, contrasting with the present-tense, third-person narration, gradually move from angry and self-pitying toward a more mature self-acceptance, but they fail to ring true given the extremely spirited actions she's taken. "I'm sick of it. Unfair. Unfair. Just leave me, that's right," she thinks when she arrives home to discover her mother and sister are still out.This relentless negativity diminishes Katherine's appeal as a character.
While vividly documenting the devastating aftereffects of severe burns, this effort never fully captures the protagonist's spirit, making for a frustrating, emotionally draining read. (Fiction. 11 & up)