Summary: In Santa Feliz, teens are randomly discovering they can shift into animals at will. Labelled as Wildlings, the initial shift can happen at anytime, and for Josh it happens when his mother’s boyfriend hits him. Suddenly he’s a mountain lion fighting back and his entire life has changed. Becoming a Wildling opens up new friendships but also new responsibilities for Josh, as the atmosphere in the community becomes increasingly paranoid and fearful. When he’s abducted to be experimented on, Josh’s new friends rush to come to his rescue, until it becomes clear he can take care of himself.
Number of Pages: 408
Age Range: 15-17
Review: The start of a new series, Under My Skin by Charles de Lint sets up an intriguing premise when teens in a small community find themselves able to transform into animal counterparts. Marina’s a teenage girl and an otter, but keeps her transformation a secret for months. When Josh, her best friend and crush, finds out he is also a mountain lion, his revelation of his secret to his friends puts Marina in an awkward position.
Things are pretty complicated in Santa Feliz. No one knows why or how the Wildlings have sprung up, and older Skin Walkers are resentful about the increased attention they have brought with them. It’s a mystery that everyone seems to be trying to solve, but in the meantime fear over the situation runs rampant.
I was hooked and left wanting the answers to the questions de Lint leaves his reader with, yet I found I was still satisfied with how Under My Skin ended. It entertained me and stirred my imagination, plus I loved the way de Lint puts things. My favourite quote is the one from when Josh and his friends find themselves in the spirit world, enjoying pureness of nature and the lack of industry. It’s breath-taking.
There are some disturbing scenes when Josh is abducted, but otherwise it’s a fast-paced read with interesting characters. Presented with a situation they never expected, each learns to adjust to a new identity of being a Wildling in their own way. Under My Skin is about adapting to the unexpected, and flourishing in spite of it.
“He shakes his head. ‘No. I’m just saying. Wildlings should be amazing. We should treat them like rock stars. But instead, it’s like everything else – just another opportunity for people to make it all scary and weird.'” – Desmond from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 37
“I haven’t been thinking any such thing. Mostly, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my life back. I know it’s not going to happen, but it’s kind of like when I hit that ball through our front window. There’s that moment when you know it’s happening, but you still have this impossible hop that it’s only going to bounce off the glass. Of course, it just smashes right through.
I want to believe that I’m in that moment where things aren’t completely screwed up yet. I know they are, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I could still wake up from all of this.” – Josh from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 61
“‘Life’s probably always going to be complicated,’ Marina says. ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a Wildling or an ordinary teenager.'” – Marina from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 104
“‘It will pass. And nothing can change what lies under the skin of the world. The spirit that burns in its heart remains unchanged.'” – Auntie Min from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 216
“I let myself be distracted and nod in agreement. It’s not just the absence of the Pacific Coast Highway and parking lots and condos and all those other artifacts of civilization that inevitably follow the coastline – though that certainly helps. Without the light pollution, the sky is a deep dark velvet as far as we can see, and we can see a long way. The air is a rich stew of brine and marsh and wet sand, without a trace of smog or exhaust. But mostly, it’s the space. I’m so aware of how it unrolls around us in all directions and seems to go on forever. And because of that, it feels like we can, too. That something inside us can expand and reach its full potential with nothing to stop it.” – Josh from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 244
“But both Marina and I know that nothing’s going back to exactly the way it was before. I want it to, but I feel a touch of wariness toward her that I wish wasn’t there.” – Josh from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, pages 352-353
“‘We have to figure out how to fix this.’
I shake my head. ‘It’s not a disease, Mom. There is no fix. This is what I am now. And I don’t want to change it.'” – Conversation between Josh’s mom and Josh from Under My Skin by Charles de Lint, page 402