Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Faceless, by Alyssa Sheinmel

Recovery stories fill a special niche in the YA genre.  The juxtaposition of a youth with a hospital setting and lots of physical therapy is a premium dramatic concept.  One of my all-time favorite books (A Face First) dramatized the idea of a burn victim having to wear a mask on her face to help it heal.  Faces are important to everyone but particularly to adolescents, so the idea of damaging it is captivating to a youthful reader.  Alyssa Sheinmel's latest novel Faceless captures that same experience.

Maisie has suffered severe burns on her face -- damage which is so extensive that it has destroyed parts of her.  The only solutions are skin grafts or another more exotic solution:  a face transplant.  This procedure will replace parts of her face with the parts of a cadaver.  With misgivings, Maisie opts for the procedure, knowing it will be ghoulish to be "wearing" someone else's face for the rest of her life.  The novel itself traces the recovery process and the difficulties of adjusting to life as her family and friends each have to come to grips with the change.

While the novel follows pretty familiar recovery territory (with plenty of grieving, anger, and acceptance to come down the pike), I liked it.  Maisie can be awfully stuck on herself and convinced she knows what everyone else is thinking, but she reasons things out and her insights are fascinating to read about.  Her friends and family are similarly multifacted and I enjoyed the growth in her relationship with her boyfriend Chirag and her best friend Serena, as well as her ongoing struggles with her mother. Sheinmel takes her time and devotes a lot of energy into these relationships, allowing us a number of different perspectives and, in the end, a fuller understanding of the ethical, moral, and emotional dilemmas of face transplants.

[Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.  When I finish with it, I will donate the book to my local public library.  The book was released on September 29th.]

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