The storyline is simple: A girl, Andrea Anderson, who describes herself as "plainish, boring, nervous", takes a job helping a neighbor. From that first connection, she begins to form others, and in doing so, she begins to actually become a participant in life, rather than just an observer.
From Skin Deep:
I study my message for a long time. It seems pretty strange to write something like this on a bathroom wall. It seems pretty strange to cringe every time someone looks my way. It's definitely strange to have an imaginary dog you call on your walks in the woods, then leech onto the dogs of neighbors for companionship.
Strange is so arbitrary, yet so vital to a person's existence. What made me suddenly strange, or was a strange from the beginning and just not aware?
The bell rings a short time later and the bathroom door almost immediately swings open. Three goody girls planning a movie and a sleepover. I flush the toilet and leave the stall, wondering why it feels like high school will never end.
I enjoyed Andrea's voice, that she was lonely and often sad, but never dramatically angst-ridden, that she was bright but never overly sarcastic or snarky. I thought that the contrasts between her life at home with her mother and her solitary walks in the woods and her time with Honora Menapace were well done. I loved seeing people reach out to her again and again, and finally seeing her begin to reach back.
Skin Deep deals with a lot of issues, but it never feels issue-y, and while the ending is predictable, it feels right. It's a quiet book, introspective, melancholy, thoughtful and full of heart. I'll be watching for E. M. Crane's next book.