With the constant likes, notifications and bombardment of information, it can be pretty tricky to find a quiet moment alone to immerse yourself in a good book. Gobblefunked was founded by Anne and I as we truly believe that there’s always time to read, even if it’s just a chapter before bedtime or a snippet on your way to school. Reading should be an important part of everyone’s day.
Time is precious so it means that making a good choice in bookshops is essential and while we may be a little embarrassed to admit it, we all judge a book by its cover. One such book cover that instantly grasped my attention was Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel (Second Star, The Stone Girl, The Beautiful Between and The Lucky Kind). Boy, was I glad I made such a fleeting judgement! This story is simply beautiful and I devoured it within days.
What starts as your classic YA novel (young girl, squabbling parents, first loves, and excitement about those love butterflies) quickly transforms within a matter of pages into a very candid and heartbreaking account of the aftermath of a very tragic accident.
Maisie’s entire life is altered instantly as she suffers catastrophic burns and trauma to her face and body. However, the suffering goes far beyond the surface of her skin as she deals with the disturbing version of herself now staring back at her in the mirror.
Sheinmel’s writing is candid and an authentic representation of both the ordinary and the extraordinary trapped inside the same teenager’s body. Whilst it has obvious similarities to Wonder by R.J. Palacio, this book delves into the concept of personality in a very different way. What if, one day, you looked in the mirror and the person looking back at you bore no resemblance to what you’d known all your life? Would you still be you? It’s a hard concept for anyone to wrack their brains around, let alone a young teenage girl who is still learning who she is.
Upon waking from her induced coma, Maisie understandably finds herself struggling with the intense pain, her hazy surroundings and her new appearance. She likes to look her best and similarly to most teenagers, would previously have spent weeks planning outfits for big social occasions. All of that is ripped away from her when she loses most of her face (muscles, bone and skin). Maisie and her parents are faced with a decision: an extensive face transplant or ongoing skin grafts. They opt for the transplant.
While doctors focus on positive progress and her parents focus on the miracle that protected Maisie from death, our teenage heroine is more absorbed by her outer appearance. She is convinced she now belongs in a horror movie. The thought of returning to school, to the scrutiny and pity of classmates and the awkwardness of her boyfriend, transforms her dreams into nightmares. However that’s not the only thing that haunts her.
The concept of guilt is seen throughout the early stages of Maisie’s transformation. She feels guilty that the decision to move forward with the face transplant means that someone else, another young girl, had to die. She often has nightmares about the donor and her last moments on earth. Everyone around Maisie keeps telling her she’s lucky. She feels anything but.
Maisie’s tale is one of tragic circumstances that is told in the most gentle and beautiful ways. The author’s writing is sincere and realistic, in spite of the surreal circumstances the story revolves around. She screams and shouts, feels guilty then feels guilty for feeling guilty, struggles with her vanity and that of those around her and mourns her former self. She also mourns for the future and those important life events that may elude her: athletics, sex, college with her friends and one day, having children of her own. In other words, she is a real person and to a reader that makes for a very poignant story.
I am very reluctant to give too much away but I will say that regardless of whether you are a teen or an adult, this book will have an impact on you. I instantly fell in love with this story and come January 2016 (its official UK/Ireland release date), I know you will too.
In the meantime, I’m off to the bookshop in search of more of Sheinmel’s books!
If you just cannot wait until January to read this book, why not check out the exclusive extract here?