Skinned – Robin Wasserman

SkinnedFrom The Download was supposed to change the world. It was supposed to mean the end of aging, the end of death, the birth of a new humanity. But it wasn’t supposed to happen to someone like Lia Kahn.

And it wasn’t supposed to ruin her life.

Lia knows she should be grateful she didn’t die in the accident. The Download saved her–but it also changed her, forever. She can deal with being a freak. She can deal with the fear in her parents’ eyes and the way her boyfriend flinches at her touch. But she can’t deal with what she knows, deep down, every time she forces herself to look in the mirror: She’s not the same person she used to be.

Maybe she’s not even a person at all.

Published: 2008

Why I Chose It: I grabbed this one off of the library shelf and noticed Scott Westerfeld had given a good review. As it had a Westerfeld vibe about it, I thought I would give it a chance!

The Review:

The book centers around Lia Khan – pretty, popular, and genuinely enjoying life. After a tragic car accident, Lia’s mind survives and is downloaded into a new robotic form. I really liked the approach of the book, because while the often asked question is, “Who wouldn’t want to become a robot,” this book thoroughly explores the question, “Who would?”

Lia was a really interesting character for me. She has a lot of sarcasm and attitude, which really helped get both her and me through a lot of the tough situations. While people around her are trying to pretend that everything is normal and okay, Lia gives them a constant reminder that she’ll never be normal again. On the other hand, Lia’s character was quite tiring. She could be very self-absorbed and negative about her situation and didn’t protect her family and friends from her complaining. She is trying to deal with what’s happening to her, and she’s dealing badly.

I struggled with the character because I didn’t really like her – she was rude and negative and self-centered – and yet I kind of like what Wasserman was doing with the character. This is actually a horrifying situation – your body died, so we put your mind into a machine – and Lia’s just supposed to pretend like it’s okay. But her life is not the same. People don’t treat her the same at all, they treat her like an alien. I thought Lia’s reactions to the situation were quite realistic, so though I didn’t like the character, I appreciated her.

This book was really interesting because not only did it explore Lia’s reactions and emotions, but it also explored the struggled of those around her who were trying to accept the new body. To have your sister or your daughter or your best friend be replaced by a robot is a bit of a change, and I liked that they were struggling with it too. This is not a normal situation.

Skinned really addresses the issue of what it is to be a human. Is human defined as a flesh being? Is it something that is found within the mind? Or the heart? Part of Lia’s troubles sits within herself, trying to figure out what and who she is. Is she still Lia Khan? I loved this line of thinking and the direction Wasserman took, because it really made me think about the answers to these questions and made me appreciate the story more.

Unfortunately I did struggle with the book. There’s a lot of negativity to it, and while I enjoyed the philosophical side to it, there wasn’t a lot of action to the book. There were definitely good parts though, and it really does take an interesting look at how technology is progressing and what that means for humanity. I would suggest Skinned for those who enjoy technology driven books, dystopians, or books that take a look into the subject of humanity.

Rating: 3 / 5


They’ll fix it, I promised myself. No matter how much it costs, no matter how long it takes. If my mother could keep her skin looking like she was twenty-two, if Bliss Tanzen could show up with a new nose to match every new season’s shopping spoils, a few scars were nothing. Maybe I’d even keep a couple.” p 27

“”The download process was a complete success. Your brain came through the accident completely intact, and we were able to make a full transfer. The body is, I’m afraid, not the customized unit you might have selected under less critical circumstances, but we did our best to choose a model that would emulate your baseline specs, height, weight, coloring.” He was talking like I was a new car.” p 32

“The group met in one of those buildings where they used to store paper books until no one wanted them anymore. You could tell because the shelves were still there, sitting empty, waiting for the world to change its mind and start printing with ink again – like that was going to happen. There were a lot of empty places like this, empty buildings that survived long after their purpose had died.” p 166

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