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Compelling tale of girl's skin issue; mature sexual content.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Introduces kids to a wide array of subjects, from math and science to history and literature. The main character also draws parallels between her own life and Ovid's famous poem "Metamorphoses."

Positive messages

Underneath the surface of each misfortune lies an opportunity for growth; it's up to each person to grasp that opportunity.

Positive role models

The main character displays bravery and resilience. She's also a well-rounded and brilliant girl who chooses to face her adversary head on rather than hide behind a mask.


A group of girls bullies the main character because of her skin condition. It's mentioned that a person has committed suicide in the past due to depression caused by the same condition.


Details of passionate kissing, along with a thorough description of a pair of teens performing oral sex on each other. The couple eventually goes all the way. However, there's a mature discussion about the importance of using protection, as well as a discussion about the risks of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 


Profane language is heavily used in the second half of the book. Readers will watch the linguistic transition that takes place while the main character works through her devastating condition. The words "f—k" and "s—t" become a somewhat regular part of her vocabulary.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Skin includes sexual content that may be too advanced for younger readers. A teen couple engages in mutual oral sex, then goes on to have intercourse. One of the sex scenes is very descriptive. However, the characters do use protection and are educated about the possible repercussions that come along with being sexually active. The main character's devastation at discovering she's living with an incurable skin condition (vitiligo) causes her inner turmoil that teens will likely identify with and an increase in strong language in her vocabulary ("f--k," "s--t"). A group of girls also bullies her because of her skin condition.

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What's the story?

A 16-year-old girl named Sep, who wakes up one morning to find her lips as white as snow. For the first time ever, she puts on lipstick to conceal the imperfection. While Sep has always been somewhat of a wallflower, her new appearance catches the eye of a boy, and not just any boy, but star football player and childhood friend Joshua. Although Sep never had any intentions of romance, the progression of her vitiligo (an incurable skin condition) causes her relationship with Joshua to advance more rapidly than if she were not afflicted. While Sep is unable to control the disease that's taking over her skin, she decides to control her body. Through dance, sexuality, and love, Sep slowly uncovers who she really is beneath the skin.

Is it any good?


SKIN is a compelling story about the beauty of transformation and what can happen to a person who views the glass as half full. In this coming-of-age tale, the female heroine displays incalculable courage by choosing not to hide behind makeup and clothes, but rather to embrace the unusual skin she has been given. On her journey, she discovers the importance of true love and romantic love. And while she learns to differentiate between the two, she discovers her true passions and comes to understand that the depth of a person is always what lies beyond the exterior. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like to live with a condition that's aesthetically different from the majority of the population. Do you know anyone with any skin conditions similar to vitiligo?

  • A lot of coming-of-age stories involve teens learning to accept how they're diffrent from others. What other novels have you read that explore that struggle? 

  • Do you consider Sep a brave heroine? If so, in what ways? 

Book details

Author:Donna Jo Napoli
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Arts and dance, Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:August 6, 2013
Number of pages:341
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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