Tuesday 22 December 2015

In the Skin of a Monster

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin 2015)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN: 9781760111717

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

We meet seventeen-year-old Alice in the remote outback Australian town of Collector. Three years have passed since her identical twin sister inexplicably took a gun to school and killed seven fellow students, and Alice is still trying to make sense of it all and distinguish herself from the murderer whose face she shares in the eyes of a broken town.

We meet Lux in the guise of a seventeen-year-old boy in a dangerous, distorted version of Collector, built on surreal dreamscapes and nightmares riddled with imagined monsters such as the girl in the brown school dress.

Events quickly takes a fantastical turn as Alice becomes trapped in Lux’s world, and even there, she finds herself mistaken for the monster that plagues her.

In the Skin of a Monster questions perception and reality in what is an original and intriguing debut novel from Kathryn Barker which I found to be a challenging read.
Alternating between the perspectives of Alice and Lux, a story emerges with the potential to confuse a reader in much the same way that Barker’s characters are confused by their circumstances.

I found myself questioning whether Alice ever had a twin, or if in fact she was the very monster she feared, living in a delusional, drug-addled state.

By the novel’s conclusion, some readers may be frustrated to find that the answers Alice seeks to find are by no means tied up in a nice, neat bow, but as she attempts to return to her life in the real Collector, there is a sense that she and her town, real and imagined, can begin to heal.

This book is suitable for a young adult and adult readership.

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