After her body is destroyed beyond repair in a car accident, 17-year-old Lia Kahn’s wealthy parents pay for her to become a “mech.” Lia’s new life poses unexpected problems when her friends reject her, believing her to be an inhuman impostor of her former self, and hate groups protest her very existence. She encounters a group of mechs who shun mortal life and live together for protection, and must choose between her old friends and family or the company of others like her.
I really liked the worldbuilding of this book. Many futuristic dystopian novels feature civilizations with impractical societal rules that are unlikely to develop in our world’s future, and are used mostly as a plot device (no art ever! the government matches you up with your spouse!). However, the world of Skinned is more of a decayed version of our own: there is still a democratically elected government, but they have little power compared to the huge corporations that own everything. People are even more addicted to technology and entertainment. And outside of the comfortable suburbs where Lia lives, the majority of the population starves in crime-ridden cities or works under harsh conditions in corporate-owned towns. Lia lives her life preoccupied with popularity and consumerism, and only starts thinking about the bleak state of the rest of the world once she sees the cities for herself and befriends mechs who grew up there. Her greater awareness of the problems of her society parallels her character development from a spoiled and judgmental girl to a more mature person trying to change the world. Though Lia has several love interests over the course of the trilogy, romance never overshadows the plot and equal focus is given to Lia’s changing relationships with family, friends, enemies, and the corporation who built her.
I would recommend Skinned to anyone 14+ (for language and thematic elements) who likes sci-fi and dystopian books such as Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.
-Miranda C., 12th grade