Title: Under Their Skin (Under Their Skin #1)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Synopsis: Nick and Eryn’s mom is getting remarried, and the twelve-year-old twins are skeptical when she tells them their lives won’t change much. Well, yes, they will have to move. And they will have a new stepfather, stepbrother, and stepsister. But Mom tells them not to worry. They won’t ever have to meet their stepsiblings. This news puzzles Nick and Eryn, so the twins set out on a mission to find out who these kids are – and why they’re being kept hidden.
Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!
Margaret Peterson Haddix is a house hold name at the public library I work at. Her books are always circulating, and the middle grade students whom I work with on a constant basis sing her praises. They always tell me her books are “full of action!” or “full of mystery!” This is my first read by this author, and I definitely can agree with the responses towards her work: she writes an intriguing mystery.
Under Their Skin opens with a very interesting situation. Twins, Eryn and Nick find out their mother is getting remarried and that their new stepfather has children. When Eryn and Nick inquire about their new step-siblings, their mother tends to freeze up, panic, or just stoutly tell them not to ask about them (which makes you wonder why she’d mention it in the first place if it was such a big deal). Turns out, the world isn’t what Eryn and Nick thought, and that their mother has more to hide than meets the eye. It’s a great premise, and definitely one that stays on an engaging note.
For the most part, I liked this novel. I found the mystery kind of predictable, and I always hate when I can call a plot twist. What I didn’t call in terms of the plot was the direct in which Haddix was taking it, and for that I really applaud her efforts because it was pretty nifty, and her interpretation of humanity and what it means to be human is pretty complex given this is a middle grade novel. I did admittedly have a bit of trouble with the writing style — it was a bit too simplistic and direct for my taste, though I understand why this might be and recognize it’s more for a middle grade audience than me. I appreciated the lengths the author went to provide a convincing tragedy for humanity in this story, though I found the rational a lot of the “adults” had was a bit all over the place and even a touch contradictory. Furthermore, I found the characters lacking somewhat, as many of them felt very flat and one note other than the twins. I wanted to know more about these people that we are introduced to, but it never really happens.
That being said, I think there’s a lot of good stuff in this novel, and it’s something I totally see the appeal of in terms of the audience it’s written for. While I wasn’t super convinced by some plot aspects in this novel, I was swept up in the mystery that Haddix crafted, and the story she was attempting to tell. This is a very plot focused novel, so if you’re looking for good characterization, that department is somewhat lacking. However, if you like a good mystery, and don’t mind suspending your disbelief a little bit, there’s a lot of fun packed into this story. I’m curious to see if book two will expand more on a lot of the questions that the ending left me with.