In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker

I picked this novel up, expecting something completely different.  I was surprised, but not disappointed.

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker

‘What if your identical twin sister was a murderer?  Does that make you a monster too?’

Poor Alice.  How can she ever come to terms with the fact that her identical twin sister shot and killed seven kids at school three years ago?  Especially in a small community?  Alice is struggling. Everyone in this small Australian town is touched by the tragedy, there’s no escaping either the fact or the impact.  Things aren’t improving for Alice, but when she encounters her sister on a deserted highway they suddenly seem to get worse.  Alice’s encounter on the highway takes her into an alternate reality, a dreamscape, one which contains the nightmares of everyone in the community.  It is not comfortable.  In this reality, people think Alice is her sister.  In this reality, events are slowly revealed to us.  In this reality, Alice has a journey to make – into her own skin and her own reality.

‘Is it possible to do a thing and not even really know why?  A random act of kindness perhaps?’

I picked up this novel, expecting a contemporary novel dealing with tragedy.  I was surprised, and sometimes confused.  But the more I read, the more I became intrigued.  There are things Alice needs to understand, people she needs to think differently about.  In the dreamscape, there are other characters whose points of view add depth to the story.  And how will it end for Alice?  Will she find her way home?

Ms Barker has created an intriguing and thought-provoking novel, which won the 2015 Aurealis Award for ‘Best Young Adult Novel’.  It is fantasy with a dark edge: clever and often unpredictable.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith