by Adrienne Maria Vrettos


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416906568
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 10/23/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 525,115
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Adrienne Maria Vrettos grew up on a mountain in southern California, where she rode dirt bikes and made a mean double-mud pie. Her first novel, Skin, was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and a New York Public Library Top 100 Books for Reading and Sharing selection. Her second novel, Sight, was an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. She is also the author of The Exile of Gigi Lane and Burnout. Adrienne lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York, and you can visit her online at

Read an Excerpt


By Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Margaret K. McElderry

Copyright © 2006 Adrienne Maria Vrettos
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4169-0655-X

Chapter One

Karen almost jerks my shoulder out of its socket dragging me out of the house and onto the front stoop. We stand huffing on the top step in the February air for a second. I nod at her, impressed. She nods back and bends over, hands on her knees. We're like athletes. Sprint runners. Sprint runners specially trained to run into burning houses to rescue orphans. Except we don't run into houses, we run out of them. And our house isn't burning, at least not with fire. We're out here because Karen freaks out when Mom and Dad fight. She always has. As soon as one of them so much as cocks an eyebrow, Karen is out the door. She grabs me by the wrist and drags me out after her. She's done it since we were kids.

She says she used to keep an old and smelly lunch box by the door, filled with a spare diaper, a bottle, a box of crackers, and these earmuffs that were shaped like teddy bears. She'd make me wear the earmuffs, even in summer, because I was always either getting or getting over an ear infection. She thought the teddy bears helped. Over the years we lost the earmuffs, but I kept the ear infections. We have much better provisions now. I reach over the side of the steps and slide out the loose brick. I pull out the tin box, replace the brick, and sit on the topstep. Karen sits next to me and hands me my science book. She'd be the best and worst person to have with you if your house actually were on fire. She'd tear you out of the house before you got a whiff of smoke, but the only thing she'd rescue besides you is your homework.

She opens her Spanish workbook, and I open the tin.

"What do you want?" I ask.

"Do we have any caramel chews left? Zip up your jacket."

"No caramel. There's peanut, though," I say, zipping my jacket to my chin and burying the bottom half of my face in its high neck.

"Fine," she says, reaching over and yanking my hood up over my head. She zips her own jacket and takes a handful of the peanut candies from me. I go to work on a half-eaten box of Valentine's Day chocolates left over from last week. I can tell Karen's listening to Mom and Dad, pretending to be reading. She would never bring us farther than the front steps. We go far enough so that we don't have to see it up close, but we're close enough so nothing really bad can happen. They know we're out here.

It's already almost too dark to read my science book. I open it anyway and let my eyes unfocus on the page until the ink and the paper blend together. Then I slam the book shut and look at Karen. Her nose has turned bright red from the cold.

"I'll make you macaroni later," she says, not looking up from the book that I know she can't see. She used to tell me this to calm me down, to keep me from banging my fists and my knees against the front door, trying to get back in. She always made good on her promise. When they were done fighting, when Dad had sulked off and Mom had locked herself in the bathroom, we'd slink inside. Karen would make macaroni and we'd pretend it was just us living there.

I rest my chin on the edge of my book and start thinking about how if I were in the woods, way up on a mountain, instead of on my front steps, this time of night would be really scary.

Especially if something went terribly wrong with the mission that me and the rest of my highly trained team of secret service assassins were on. We made camp for the night in a small clearing, surrounded by towering pine trees that swayed and creaked in the cold wind. I am on first watch with Harley, the most loveable screw-up I've ever served with. Midway into our shift, I elbow him in the gut to wake him up and tell him I'm going to take a leak. I step outside of the circle of firelight and go to the edge of the woods. Midstream, the reflection of the fire suddenly disappears from the leaves I'm peeing on. I finish fast and turn around to whisper-yell, "H! You asshole. What'd you do? Piss on the fire? Harley? Stop dicking around and bring some wood." I curse under my breath while I relight the fire. What I see as the fire slowly lights the camp makes me drop to the ground and pull out my gun. They're gone. My whole team, all of them. Harley. Everybody. The tents have been slashed, the sleeping bags are empty, and there are drops of blood on the ground leading out of our campsite and into the woods. I remember Captain's words during training. He called me the wild card, a loose cannon. If it were up to him, I'd be guarding some eighth-term-senator's grandmother, not the president's daughter. But it's not up to him. Me and the president go way back, further back than I'd ever be able to tell a soul without turning up dead somewhere. The president wanted me on this, and now that his daughter has been kidnapped, it is up to me to save her. Captain would want me to do the safe thing: wait till morning. I can hear his raspy voice, There's no telling what's in these woods, soldier. "Only one way to find out," I say aloud. I grab my night-vision goggles and my pack, and head into the darkness.

"Who's that?"

Up, up out of the woods and back to where my butt has frozen to our top step, Karen's actually looked up from her book to watch a crooked rust-red pickup truck that's parking at the house across the street.

"Must be the new people," I say. Mom said someone had moved in. I just assumed it was another old couple, like the one who lived there before. The two of them had looked like brother and sister; twins even, except they were married. Creepy.

A really big guy in a parka you'd wear if you were climbing polar ice caps is getting out of the driver's side of the truck. He looks like one of those guys that builds houses. Or tears them down. Either way, he'd do it with his bare hands. He stretches when he's out, and sees us watching from across the street. He waves.

"Hiya." His voice rolls like rocks across the street. The passenger-side door opens, and a soccer ball falls out and rolls under the truck. The big man picks it up. Karen and I are both watching to see who gets out. I'm hoping for a kid my age, someone I could hang out with all weekend, till school on Monday when he finds out I'm a leper and pretends not to know me. The truck door opens farther and someone gets out. It's not a kid my age. But it is the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. Roll your eyes if you want. You think of a better way to say it when you see someone and every single part of you stops for a second, and then starts up again, but in a way that will never be the same.

Karen's already standing. She pulls me up by my jacket sleeve.

"Hi. I'm Karen," she calls as I stare at the girl crossing the street toward us. Her hair's pulled back in a ponytail and she's wearing a soccer uniform under her jacket. She's been sweating.

"This is Donnie," Karen says, nudging me with her elbow. "Did you just move in?"

"Yep. I'm Amanda. You live here?" Her socks are doubled down, showing her shin guards. She's got a scab the size of a dime on her right knee. The skin around the scab is lighter than the rest of her.

"Yep," I say. I can't look her in the eye. So I look at her chest until Karen elbows me in the ribs.

"Yeah, we live here," Karen says, as if my answer wasn't good enough. I hate it when she does that.

"So ... what are you guys doing out here? Aren't you cold?" Amanda asks, resting the toe of her cleat on the edge of the step. I stare at the lines of her leg muscle and wonder how Karen will answer this one. From inside we all hear Mom yell, "The hell I don't!"

"Family tradition," Karen says quickly. Good answer. Amanda nods and smiles.

"What grade are you in?" Karen and Amanda ask each other the question at the same time and laugh.

"I'm in tenth," Karen says.

"Me too," Amanda says. "I start at Kennedy on Monday. I just met with the coach for the indoor league."

Karen nods toward me. "He's in -"

"I'm in eighth," I interrupt, and Karen snorts. Amanda smiles at me and I try to tuck my entire head inside my jacket.

"Dad and I just got Chinese food if you want to come over. It'll be warmer inside than out here."

"Sure!" I say. That's a lie: I don't say it, I practically scream it from inside my jacket.

Amanda and Karen both look at me.

"Sure," Karen says. "Thanks."

I don't notice that it's gone quiet inside till Mom opens the front door and comes out wearing her stupid fake smile and talking in her stupid fake voice.

"Hi there! I'm Karen's mom."

Apparently Karen's an only child.

"You must have just moved in across the street."

"Yes ma'am. My dad and I did."

"Well, tell your dad we would love to have the two of you over for dinner sometime real soon."

"Okay. Thanks."

Mom's eyes are red-rimmed and glassy. Through the door I can see Dad pacing. He's not done yet. We all stand there for a second, looking at our feet.

Amanda says, "I actually just asked if ... they wanted to eat at our house tonight. We're having Chinese. There's plenty."

I hold in my mouth the taste of Amanda including me, and watch Mom.

"Well, sure, Karen can eat at your house. Donnie, you don't want to hang around girls all night, do you? You'll stay here with us."

I look back inside the house. Dad's standing still now, watching us from the living room. I look back at Karen, trying to grab onto her with my eyes. I think Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me. She leaves me.

"Okay. Bye, Mom. I'll be home later."

"Nice meeting you, Donnie," Amanda says.

I watch them walk down the driveway; their heads already tipped toward each other, Amanda linking elbows with Karen as if they've been best friends forever. I'm left to follow Mom into the house as she is answering Dad's demand, "Who was that?"

I don't blame Karen. I would have left too, if I could have.


Excerpted from Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos Copyright © 2006 by Adrienne Maria Vrettos. 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.

Customer Reviews

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Skin 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
bootzie_bday More than 1 year ago
In the first chapter of this book, you already can't put it down. Curiosity rings your mind and you need to know more. Karen and Donnie's parents are hard to understand, especially when they fight majority of the time. The parents bickering bring Donnie and Karen closer together. These kids know the drill, to run out front to block out the noise of their parents yelling and screaming at each other-because this is their average every day. If you like reading about realistic lives, you should read this book, Skin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've connected with Donnie in this book in so many ways, I've spent my entire life in the background. Left out. Ignored. Forgotten. Left Behind. Invisible. I've spent my entire life taking care of others, just like Donnie, whether they realize it or not. It's just nice to know I'm not the only one. SERIOUSLY RECOMMENDED!
punkypower on LibraryThing 24 days ago
"Skin" tells the story of two siblings, Danny and Karen. Danny is a nobody at school. Karen wants to be somebody, but won't be unless she's the perfect weight. Their parents seems to spend more time on hurting each other with words than trying to find out about their kids.They have skin, yet are they really there?Overall, a good read for young adults. For those a bit older, I highly recommend Jillian Medoff's "Hunger Point."
ohioyalibrarian on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This is a well-written and different take on eating disorders as it focuses mainly on the sibling of the ill person. I thought the ending was a bit too neat and easy, but other than that a good handling of this important subject.
4sarad on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I really don't have much to say about this book. I thought the plot was good, I liked the characters... it was just a good book. I didn't quite understand the father and wish he was explained a bit more, but otherwise, no complaints here!
tasha on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Donnie has always had his sister to rely on. Through their parents' fighting, through his unpopularity at school, and through his loneliness. But when his sister develops an eating disorder, it is Donnie that starts to look out for everyone, even though as he does it he loses himself, turning invisible in school and at home. This is a stark, vivid portrayal of an eating disorder from the point of view of a sibling who is also damaged by the disease. The writing pulls you into Donnie's world filled with loneliness and confusion. Even as you realize that Donnie is disappearing, you are struck by the quality of the writing that can create a main character who is becoming nearly invisible. Yet Donnie's voice and point of view are never compromised. Karen, the sister, is equally well-written as the reader and Donnie both continue thinking, hoping that she has defeated her demons and overcome her disorder. The author has created a book with a unique perspective that is one of the best eating-disorder novels for teens that I have ever read. This book will be an easy sell with teens who enjoy problem novels or books about eating disorders. But it will also be enjoyed by boys who may not usually pick up problem novels. It is a searing look at a serious issue, so boys looking for reality books will enjoy it.
emithomp on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Dionne stands on the sidelines as his parents' marriage dissolves and his sister struggles with anorexia.Between Kate's anorexia and Dionne's depression, there isn't a more angsty novel than this one. It is compelling, though. The choice to tell the story through the eyes of the victims younger brother is an interesting one, and it really brings the pain of anorexia into focus. It also shows the pain of not fitting in and not knowing how to deal with fighting parents. In other words, this book is trying to tackle a lot of separate issues, but manages to succeed for the most part.This is definitely a book for high schools. It's very dramatic and could upset younger children.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This story is told by a boy whose sister has anorexia. Although her family tries to do anything they can to help her, she keeps getting worse. It's a very interesting look at how family members are effectied by the disease.
marnattij on LibraryThing 24 days ago
14-year-old Donnie's family is messed up. His parents fight all the time and his sister has a serious eating disorder. He does what he can for them, but what he tries to do for himself is hide. If no one sees him, no one talks to him, no one even acknowledges he's there then somehow the problems will go away. When disaster strikes, Donnie realizes he needs to take action to save himself and he finally jumps out of his skin.Although it's clear how part of the story will end from the very first page this book is still gripping. The family situation is emotional and complex. The characters, too are complicated and real. Even Donnie's cousin who breezes in at the end of the book isn't the hero we hope he might be for Donnie, but it's through him that Donnie realizes he has to help himself. Kids who like realistic fiction and books about sick teens will like this one.
ewyatt on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This book explores what happens to other members of a family when someone has a problem, in this case anorexia. Donnie's family is pretty dysfunctional. His parents fight just about constantly and his dad moves out. The book begins with Donnie finding Karen dead and goes back to tell the story of how they arrived at that tragic moment. Donnie works very hard to watch out for Karen who continues to shrink in size throughout the narrative, but at school he just tries to get by through becoming invisible. The constant bickering and fighting between family members was tough to read at times. Although I kept hoping that they would be able to pull together enough to help Karen get well. Although Donnie has been through an incredibly rough time, I finished the book with some hope that he would be ok. This book kind of reminded me of My Brother's Keeper in that it took at look at the sibling who was trying to keep things together.
AuchinleckAcademy on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Outstanding - 1st person male (teenage) narration who battles with a family nightmare. Would suit either boy/girl. S. McK
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shannon92 More than 1 year ago
When i picked up the book Skin I did not know what to expect. I had never heard of it before, i just picked this book up and chose to read it. And wow am i happy i did. This book is one of the best books that I have read in a long time! It deals with a lot of issues that teenagers can understand. If you read this book I promise you that you will not regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Donnie is a freshmen freak with a messed up family! So what else is new? This book is ok for a simple and quick read only.If your looking for depth and real drama move on!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Donnie is a teen who is struggling with his existence to others and the survival of his family. He must deal with his sister, Karen's, anorexia. She is the only one he has know to trust and comfort him while his parents are arguing. The bond they share is like no other. He must also try to help keep his parents together. The least of his concerns is himself. Seeing your family fall apart right before your eyes is hard, im glad Donnie is a strong enough person to do all he can. i really like this book. Skin, because it deals with real situations that people struggle with. Donnie takes up the responsibility to help save his sister and his parents.As a teen who is already falling away from society, he tries to do all he can to save his family, afterall they're all he has.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I read was Skin by Adrienne Vrettos. It is about a boy named Donnie whose sister, Karen, is suffering from an eating disorder. Donnie has to deal with that, and being an outcast at school, and he has to deal with his parents fighting everyday. While his sister starts to get worse everyday, Donnie tries to help her in any way he can, even if it means him becoming invisible. i love this because it has to do with things that are going on in a teens world. Parents fighting and taking a 'break' and some even dealing with anerxia..and also dealing with the presures of the high food chain..if you cant deal your problems do what i someles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It made me think about my life and the things I do to my own body, I don't want to die. It inspired me to get help. I think this book deserves a 5. Everyone I lend it to loves it. She has written a great book and I hope she writes more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm usually not a book reader, but I started reading this one for a school project and I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Skin' was a book I randomely found on the shelf while shopping with a friend. As I began to read the flap I noticed this was going to be a great one. I was so engulfed in it, I finished within one day. It was very deep and made me think of some issues that happen, and the effects my smallest choices make.