Grow­ing up is hard to do

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment - BY AN­GELA KIVERSTEIN AND LEONORA CRAIG CO­HEN

W HAT WOULD YOU do i f you woke up af­ter a fa­tal ac­ci­dent in the body of a ma­chine? This is the premise of Robin Wasser­man’s chill­ing SF thriller, Skinned (Si­mon and Schus­ter, £6.99). Beau­ti­ful, pop­u­lar 16-year-old Lia will never age or feel pain. Un­able to eat, lis­ten to mu­sic or feel emo­tions, she is cut off from all the things teenagers most en­joy. A “mech” or liv­ing ex­per­i­ment, she’s re­jected by her friends and boyfriend. Only other “mechs” of­fer her refuge.

Like Scott Wester­feld’s Uglies tril­ogy and Neil Shus­ter­man’s Un­wind, Skinned goes deep into the ex­is­ten­tial dilem­mas of mod­ern teenagers. At its heart is the hor­ror of liv­ing with a chang­ing body, which feels out of con­trol, alien and fake. Lia’s choice be­tween con -tin­u­ing to live a life of de­nial and ac­cept­ing her own trans­for­ma­tion drama­tises ado­les­cent fears, and weaves them into the first part of an in­trigu­ing, if two-di­men­sional, dystopian tril­ogy for teenagers.

If your chil­dren refuse to have their hair combed, Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (Blooms­bury, £11.99) will be a kill-or-cure treat­ment. Young Bon­nie en­treats Mis­ter to let her comb his hair. He coun­ters with a de­scrip­tion of a bizarre king­dom within his locks: “go­ril­las leap/ tigers stalk and ground sloths sleep. Prides of lions make their lair, some­where in my crazy hair…” As well as wild an­i­mals, his hair en­closes dancers, posh folk in hot-air bal­loons, pi­rates and more. McKean’s il­lus­tra­tions are full of colour and move­ment. Hairy — and scary — for four-to six-year-olds.

Th­ese days, we have cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions of a hol­i­day in Florida. But there are no Dis­ney char­ac­ters or scream-in­duc­ing wa­ter parks for teenager Evie, in Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholas­tic, £6.99). In­stead, she en­coun­ters dis­guises and wa­tery dra­mas of a dif­fer­ent kind. Whisked by her fam­ily from New York to Palm Beach, Evie falls in love with a brood­ing charmer called Peter, who served with her step­fa­ther in the war and now seems to have a mys­te­ri­ous hold on him. True, no­body is wear­ing an over­sized Mickey Mouse head, but every­one — from enig­matic guests Mr and Mrs Grayson to her Evie’s own mother — seems to have some­thing to hide.

As Evie un­earths the truth, which in­cludes a bit­ter brush with an­tisemitism, she be­gins to grow up. An at­mo­spheric, noir blend, rem­i­nis­cent of Re­becca and The Green­gage Sum­mer, for age 11 to adult.

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