Winner of Delacorte's 2006 first YA novel contest, this thoughtful, evenly paced tale focuses on one high schooler's world and all that's frustratingly wrong in it. Sixteen-year-old Andrea Anderson begins her sophomore year feeling hopelessly average and plain, struggling to survive each school day unnoticed and to avoid her single mother's wrath. But when her homeroom teacher commits suicide in the teachers' lounge, Andrea begins to reevaluate her cautious existence. She doesn't shy away when a reclusive neighbor, diagnosed with cancer, needs help caring for her Saint Bernard and sprawling gardens. Instead, she befriends the herb-growing, pottery-making stranger and her enormous dog. Although her plot has plenty of death and abandonment, Crane shows readers about self-discovery and the importance of passion and strength. Some events seem abrupt or unlikely (popular cheerleader Ashley chooses Andrea to be her new best friend for no clear reason), and there may be some easy stereotypes, like the jocks who goose a nerdy student in assembly. But for the most part, the characters seem real and relatable, and when Andrea finally stands up to her mother, readers will empathize. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Skin Deepby E. M. Crane
If all the world’s a stage, Andrea Anderson is sitting in the audience. High school has its predictable heroes, heroines, villains, and plotlines, and Andrea has no problem guessing how each drama will turn out. She is, after all, a professional spectator. In the social hierarchy she is a Nothing, and at home her mother runs the show. All Andrea has to do is show up every day and life basically plays out as scripted.
Then one day Andrea accepts a job. Honora Menapace–a reclusive neighbor–is sick. As in every other aspect of her life, Andrea’s role is clear: Honora’s garden must be taken care of and her pottery finished, and someone needs to feed her dog, Zena. But what starts out as a simple job yanks Andrea’s back-row seat out from under her. Life is no longer predictable, and nothing is what it seems. Light is dark, villains are heroes, and what she once saw as ugly is too beautiful for words. Andrea must face the fact that life at first glance doesn’t even crack the surface.
From the Hardcover edition.
Andrea Anderson does not like to get involved. She sits on the edge of her high school environment and watches the world, carefully protecting her emotions. When her homeroom teacher commits suicide at school, she keeps her distance from grief. Her mother learns that a neighbor is in the hospital and volunteers Andrea to take care of the woman’s dog. Zena is a big St. Bernard who scares her, but Andrea grows fond of the dog and enjoys the time she spends taking care of her. When the neighbor Honora returns, she engages Andrea in conversation and before long offers Andrea a job permanently taking care of the dog and helping her with her pottery and artwork. Slowly but surely Andrea is drawn out of her observation post and into life. She even makes friends with one of the high school cheerleaders, Ashley, who shares her own love of dogs and drives Andrea to school and events. As Andrea enjoys being more involved in the world around her, Honora confesses that she is seriously ill and needs help with more than just the dog and pottery. This is the winner of the 2008 Delacorte Press Contest for a first young adult novel. Older readers will appreciate the changing tone as Andrea moves from being an unconnected observer to being a full participant in the ups and downs, tragedies and comedies that comprise high school life and indeed life itself. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
Andrea Anderson considers herself a nobody, in high school and in life, "nervous . . . boring . . . average." She has an overworked, single mother who lives on convenience food and television. They derive little joy from each other. Both lonely people want more. For Andrea's mother, it is a boyfriend-plain, lumpy co-worker Dennis, who looks like a horse but who turns out to be solid, reliable, and understanding. Meanwhile Andrea takes a job looking after the dog of a reclusive neighbor, Honora Menapace, while its owner is in the hospital. Not only does she fall in love with the great Saint Bernard, Meta, but when Honora comes home, Andrea discovers that Honora is a gifted artist and rare soul who sees in Andrea more talents than she knew herself. Andrea learns that appearances often deceive: Ashley, a gorgeous cheerleader, mourns a dead brother and wants to be Andrea's friend; her homeroom teacher unexpectedly kills himself; and Honora, who seems invincible, has terminal cancer. Ultimately Honora dies, but only after she has opened a whole new way of seeing for Andrea. She bequeaths Meta to Andrea too, and Dennis coaxes Andrea's mom to accept Meta, as well as a kitten he brings into the family-for family it has now become. Teenage girls who can empathize with Andrea's journey of self-discovery and its triumphs and losses will find a well-written story, with lyrical explorations of nature, and memorable characters. Reviewer: Rayna Patton
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
Gr 9 Up- Friendless, bullied by her mother, and insecure, 15-year-old Andrea Anderson considers herself a "Nothing" until she starts dog-sitting for Honora, an eccentric life-loving artist who is battling cancer. Their friendship grows organically and realistically through the novel, slowly causing Andrea to learn to value herself. Honora (and her St. Bernard, Zena) is the true star of the book, a powerful character almost too full of wisdom and kindness in a uniquely independent feminist way. The story is well placed in the naturalistic beauty of small-town Pennsylvania. The smoothly written narrative is imbued with a sense of faith in humanity and respect for the arts. Primarily a book about adults as seen through a young woman's eyes, and the effect this relationship has on her own growth, this languid read for introspective girls is an auspicious winner of the 2006 Delacorte Press First Novel Contest.-Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
Read an Excerpt
By E. M. Crane Delacorte Books for Young Readers Copyright © 2008 E. M. Crane
All right reserved.
My name is Andrea.
My locker is the fourth one down from Mrs. Donough's room. She's the teacher they call the Doughnut.
The Doughnut teaches earth science and I think she's all right, but I guess you can't be a fat teacher with a last name like Donough and get off easy. If you look like adorable little Kimberlee Dorcus, with her tiny sweaters and lip-glossed mouth, not too many people will call you the Dork because of your last name. But the Doughnut isn't cute and perky. Kimberlee is.
Actually, I consider myself lucky not to have a horrible last name. It's Anderson. Andrea Anderson. If I had a last name like Beagle or Dumley, I'd be screwed. There are kids with ugly faces or bad skin, annoying personalities or fat thighs. There's the girl with the receding chin that makes her nose look like a ski jump. The boy with bad breath. These are the kids who learn to keep to the edges, to hide.
Then there's that other category of kids. The Desirables. Them.
I am definitely not one of them. I am plainish, boring, nervous. Average student. No school activities. Andrea Anderson, a Nothing. I just am.
It's better to know where one falls in the social stratosphere, and I fall somewhere between Too Lame to Invite to a Party and Too Ugly to Go Out With. I move through the halls of school as if I'm not really there.The hallways between classes are like the stage in the school auditorium. There are actors performing roles from different plays, not noticing that a million other performances are going on at the same time. Simmonsville High School Presents: Act 1--Cheerleader Ashley Gets Bad Haircut and Cries. Act 2--Psycho Tries to Make Crystal Meth in Science Lab. Act 3--Future Valedictorian Accused of Cheating on History Test. Some acts, naturally, are accompanied by predictable choreography. And it's the choreography of the Cheerleaders I'm watching from my locker: they are huddled around Cheerleader Ashley-with-Bad-Haircut's locker. Ashley-with-Bad-Haircut dabs at tear-stained cheeks in a tiny locker mirror.
"It'll grow back, honey," Teena Santucci is saying, running her jewel-color fingernails through her own glossy hair. Teena wears a diamond-studded bar through her navel that makes me shudder because it had to hurt, didn't it?
The Doughnut sticks her lightbulb head out her door. She looks right through me to the Cheerleaders and sighs.
"Okay, ladies, get to homeroom."
Ashley-with-Bad-Haircut frantically repairs her makeup as the Cheerleaders drift away.
"The bell hasn't even rung yet, Mrs. Donough," Teena mouths off, but she's already heading down the hall. The Doughnut ignores her and pulls her big head back into her classroom.
The bell rings, and it's just me and sniffling Ashley in the hall. Ashley grabs a notebook from her locker. She slams it shut. She sees me looking at her and looks back, not smiling.
"Tell me the truth," she says.
Her eyes are red-rimmed, outlined with gray eyeliner. Her face and neck are flushed and pretty, like she's just dashed back to the sidelines from the center of the basketball court. She's wearing a blue kilt and a tight baby-doll T-shirt just concealing her stomach.
Her hair isn't so bad, I decide. But I hesitate to tell her. If I say it looks okay, she'll think I'm kissing up. If I say it's horrible, she'll think I'm a jerk.
"About my hair," she says when I don't answer right away. She points to her head as if I'm stupid. What used to be a sleek ponytail is now a short bob, gelled to stick out here and there. Tousled.
"I guess it matters more how you like it, not how I like it," I say, shrugging.
"Well, I hate it," she barks.
I shrug again and shut my locker.
"Doesn't make a difference to me either way," I say.
Ashley doesn't respond. I notice from the corner of my eye that she's still standing there, facing me.
I look up.
Ashley's face is registering surprise. She blinks hard at me. I wonder briefly if she's angry.
"Oh, it's so stupid," she laughs suddenly. "You know, when I was seven, my brother cut my hair. Snipped my bangs back so far it looked like the first two inches of my forehead had been shaved.
"Took months for it to grow back. Every kid in the neighborhood called me Forehead. I survived it, and I'll survive the jackasses who make fun of me today."
Ashley flicks her hair with cherry-red fingernails and heads for her homeroom.
"It's not like I have a choice, do I?" she whispers as she passes me. I'm surprised by how confiding her voice sounds. Like maybe she thinks I matter.
Homeroom with Mr. Diego.
Mr. Diego wears consignment store clothes and forgets to trim his ear hair. He whispers things like "Carpe diem" as forlorn homeroom students trudge in. Or he glares at us from his big metal desk.
It depends on the day.
Today he's glaring. The nerdy kid next to me whispers that Mr. Diego needs drugs for manic depression. I smile and the nerdy kid's face floods with relief, as if he's grateful. That's one thing about high school I've learned--even when you're unnoticed, there's usually someone else with a more painful role than loneliness. Girls who get their bras snapped in gym class, boys who endure a fist squashing their brown-bag lunches in the cafeteria. Both noticed and hated. Sometimes that's a solace, to not be one of them.
In homeroom with Mr. Diego, the students sit in alphabetical order. I'm in the first row, last seat. Diego does roll call: Allessandro, Almand, Amman, Anderson. Two football players copy someone else's homework next to me. Nicole Belloff is digging a pack of gum free from her overstuffed purse.
"Nicole, you just dropped a tampon on the floor," one of the football players says. Nicole frantically dives for her purse, groping beneath her chair. The football players both burst out laughing, and Nicole shoots them a dark look.
"Works every time, brother," laughs one football player. The pair high-five each other, then look around the room with gloomy boredom.
A few stragglers come in and take their seats.
"The bell rang eight minutes ago." Mr. Diego's voice is icy. The room gets quiet, but we all know Mr. Diego won't do anything. No one really gets to his homeroom right on time. Sure enough, he sighs and continues roll call.
"Carson, Muriel. Carson, Peter. Chistaldo. Chow."
"Purina Dog Chow!" hoots a football player.
Same joke, different day.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Skin Deep by E. M. Crane Copyright © 2008 by E. M. Crane. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
E. M. Crane is the winner of the 2006 Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel. She lives in Sackets Harbor, New York, where she is a fulltime writer. Skin Deep is her first book for young readers.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Im in seventh grade and i have to read this book for school. Im over half way through it, and im just not interested, its just not exciting enough. But i guess thats a matter of opiniun though. It has a good moral to it. I would give it 3 and a half stars if that was and option. Overall, its not a bad book, but if my school wasnt making me read it, i wouldnt read it :/
this is a really great book for anyone who needs an inspiring read! super creative and an absolutely wonderful plot! lots of great quotes in here too! LOVE this book!!!
this story is very good. it's well written and an easey read. when i read it i found myself realizing how much andrea and i are alike. i deffinatly recomend it.
I can't stop thinking about this story. It is deep and completely satisfying.
Andrea Anderson is a loner in high school. She plays on the sidelines of life. She has a single mom who is very demanding and her life is very dull and ordinary. She thinks of school as a theater, and as she travels the hallways she sees different soap opera scenes.
The one thing that Andrea loves are dogs and long walks in the countryside. Andrea's mom works at the local hospital and when one of the neighbors is admitted, she volunteers Andrea to walk the neighbor's dog. This single event changes Andrea's life.
When she meets Honora, her neighbor, and Honora's dog, Zena, Andrea finds acceptance for the first time. Honora employs Andrea to be her assistant. Honora is an artist and loves nature. She teaches Andrea about pottery, herbs, plants, dyes, and how to look at life beneath the surface. Andrea starts to be open about life and seeing people in a completely new light.
This story was full of metaphors about art, life, and nature. It was also a coming of age story about a lonely young girl who finds her way in this world. I highly recommend this quiet little story about life. I promise it will stay with you for a long time afterward.
This book offers the reader another view of life and it's easy to get caught up in the characters well-written lives. I appreciate reading a book that gives hope through experience.
Skin Deep is a captivating book. The characters are believable and stay with you long after the book is done. This story will make you laugh, cry and remind you about the obstacles our teens face every day. It's a must read for young readers as well as their mentors!
I loved this book. Andrea's struggle to appreciate herself is typical of most people's experience. I felt as if I knew the characters, because they are so well described. The value of relationships can never be overstated. The writing is superb and the entire book is entertaining.
Ms Crane is to be commended for recognizing the fact that not all young adults 'teen agers' are interested in nothing but sex, booze, and drugs and raves or molestations. Andrea, a young girl who is the product of a broken home, suffers deeply from little or no self esteem. Eventually, when she reaches out to help Mrs. Manepace,she becomes aware of who she really is and opens up to the beauty that has unknowingly surrounded her. After rereading many passages,I scratched myself and found that if I only looked around more at the beauty of nature and the beauty of wildlife I,too,could scrtch myself and find self esteem. Already am looking forward to Ms Crane's next book.
This book was captivating from the beginning to end. The characters were vivid and engaging. I felt as if I knew them or people like them in my own life. Every person meets an Honora at some point in their journey. This book reminds us all that we can make a drastic difference in the lives of others simply by being ourselves. Definitely reaches past the teen genre. An excellent first book, well deserving of the Delacorte Press Prize. Looking forward to the next book by this thought provoking author.
E.M. Crane really touches the hearts of the kid's who really are the one's who tend not to get noticed in school or life. The author gives these teens hope in her main charactor Andrea, in being studious, knowing about flowers, learning about the world, being open to differences, and loving small things in life. Some good messages can be found in this read for the spoiled kid's of this age! All teens are important....it's Skin Deep!
This is not your typical YA. It's introspective and thoughtful. It has characters that stay with you after you close the book. I loved them all, and I think in a world obsessed with beauty, this is one book that reminds you why it is only skin deep.
I dont usually coment on books i dont enjoy but i thought peolpe wanting to read this should read my views on it. It seemed reall interesting but once i sat to read it i lost interest. Of course this is the author's fist book , but i find it boring and withuot a plot. There seems to be no conflict or climax that makes the reader want to continue reading the book.