Tuesday, March 7, 2023

In Her Skin by Kim Savage


Holy shit, you guys. What in the name of Mr. Ripley was this. You know, it's totally appropriate that this author's name is Kim Savage because this book was SAVAGE. Brutal. Is this really YA? Because IN HER SKIN was basically everything I love in a thriller, except with characters who are, like, half the age of the ones I usually read about. And normally I think YA authors find themselves curtailed when writing edgy thrillers, because they're like okay, but how edgy can I really be when writing for kids? Kim Savage found a way.

Jolene Chastain has just lost her mother. Or, to be more specific, her mother was just murdered by one of her sleazy boyfriends. Jo and her mom were semi-homeless con artists, and now Jo is all alone. While sitting next to a rich girl at a library, who looks kind of like her, she gets the idea to steal her identity. But when she looks the girl up (after stealing her ID), she figures out an even better plan: the girl, Temple Lovecraft, was childhood friends with a girl who's been missing for years, Vivienne Weir. She can become the friend instead.

So Jo becomes Vivi and learns that in the years since her disappearance, Vivi's parents have both died, and in the event of their deaths, Vivi was meant to live with the Lovecraft family instead. They are super rich and give Vivi basically anything she could ever want, and mysterious, brooding Temple quickly develops a close and toxic bond with Jo (that's kind of a little sexual, too). But there's something this family is hiding that goes beyond your typical levels of jaded rich person ennui. And by taking up the Vivienne Weir mantle, Jo might just have put herself in danger.

I'm surprised IN HER SKIN has such bad reviews, but also not really. One, even though this book has some sapphic moments, it wasn't really branded or tagged that way by readers, so the people who would love a book about dark, morally chaotic girls-who-love-girls don't know it exists. Two, everyone in this book is awful. And I've noticed that a lot of people who claim to like "villain characters" just want romantic villain characters, like the Darkling, and get angry when presented with actual sociopaths. Both Jo and Temple are terrible people, and part of the fun, especially in the last act, is seeing what they do next. Lastly, it's cheesy. This is the YA version of a Lifetime movie, okay? Or like V.C. Andrews but without all the incest and underage stuff. If a gothic melodrama is what floats your boat, reading this is going to have you cracking open the champagne on deck.

I personally LOVED this book and now that I see that Kim Savage has penned a couple other edgy-looking YA mysteries, I'm going to have to find a way to get my hands on them.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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