Review – The Skin I’m In

10 May

The Skin I’m In by Sharon G Flake, Hyperion 2007

  • ISBN-13: 978-1423103851
  • YA fiction; diversity; teenage conflict; discrimination

The Plot

Thirteen year old Maleeka Madison describes herself as “the darkest, worst-dressed thing in school”. Maleeka lives in a world where discrimination is an everyday occurance, and the way you look determines whether you fit in or not at McClenton Middle School.  When Ms. Saunders, the new English teacher with the unusual face, arrives at McClenton, Maleeka senses trouble ahead.  Ms. Saunders seems determined to challenge Maleeka’s low self-esteem and judgemental ways, but Maleeka has enough trouble to deal with: borrowing clothes to hide her own home-made ones, doing homework for other people, and ignoring the taunts from her peers about how dark she is.  The last thing Maleeka needs is a freaky teacher on a mission to teach her how to like herself, but Ms. Saunders is determined to get help Maleeka learn to live with the skin she’s in.

Book Snitch comments

The Skin I’m In is a story with universal messages that both young and adult readers can relate to. Sharon G. Flake offers the reader a realistic insight into the world of teenage politics and loyalties which conflict with being principled.  Maleeka’s struggle with her identity consumes young readers and has them eagerly turning the pages to discover the outcomes of the Maleeka’s tactics to survive; like creating an alliance with Charlese Jones, the toughest bully at McClenton.  Narrated through Maleeka’s eyes, readers are privy to Maleeka’s thoughts and feelings which reveal the psychological side of growing up and learning about who you are.  Maleeka’s sassy attitude will also make you smile, as she shares vivid descriptions of the host of characters at McClenton Middle School.  Flake also uses epistolary elements within the narrative through Maleeka’s diary entries where she imagines life for a fourteen year old slave girl in the seventeenth century, creating parallels to compliment the modern setting and encourage student inquiry into the history of discrimination.

Who should read this?

The Skin I’m In is a novel aimed at Middle Graders. Book Snitch recommends this novel for readers aged twelve upwards.  Contains themes of racism and diversity.

Note for educators

The Skin I’m In is a fantastic text which students wil enjoy reading.  It could be used in a transdisciplinary unit between English and Humanities and/or Homeroom focusing on topics such as discrimination, conflict or growing up.  There are a lot of rich opportunities for writing assignments based on the plot.  For example, Maleeka is given the assignment to write the diary of a slave girl for her English class which offers the opportunity to look at the history of slavery and oppression of African Americans.  Other writing ideas could include:

  • Writing sections of the story from an alternative character’s perspective
  • Newspaper reports promoting tolerance and respect in a student body
  • Developing the story of Akeelma (Maleeka’s character in her slave diary entries)
  • Writing Caleb’s love poems

See the Resources and ideas page for a lesson idea based on advisory writing to Maleeka.

4 stars

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