Friday, January 1, 2016

Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 2016

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From New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix comes the first book in a brand-new thrilling series about twins who are on a quest to discover the secrets being kept by their new family.
Nick and Eryn's mom is getting remarried, and the twelve-year-old twins are skeptical when she tells them their lives won't change much. Well, yes, they will have to move. And they will have a new stepfather, stepbrother, and stepsister. But Mom tells them not to worry. They won't ever have to meet their stepsiblings.
This news puzzles Nick and Eryn, so the twins set out on a mission to find out who these kids are - and why they're being kept hidden.

(320 pages)

Wow. Just, wow. I can see Under Their Skin becoming so popular in the future. Haddix is at her best when it comes to her series (The Shadow Children and The Missing both make my top five favorites, easy), and she pulls no punches this time around. I absolutely love the premise of the entire series, and I can't wait to see what she does with it in the future! There's one fundamental trouble I have with it, though: it's just about murder to review without spoilers.

How do you review a book that is so much better when the reader doesn't know anything about it? Very, very carefully. Let's see, how to do this . . . Well, parts of Under Their Skin remind me of Haddix's other sci-fi books (most especially a touch of The Always War, a little bit of the Missing series, and a dab of Double Identity), all of which I absolutely adore. Unfortunately, they're all horrible books to review, too, which is why I've avoided reviewing them (except for Double Identity, which I reviewed years ago and posted to my blog here). The very things that make Under Their Skin similar to Haddix's other books (the fascinating topics, the huge reveals, the intriguing ethical dilemmas) are what make it almost impossible to discuss Under Their Skin without taking away some of the magic of that first read-through.

Because seriously, I was mulling over the central conflict for days - how would I feel in Eryn's and Nick's place? What would I do, how could I make the decisions they will have to face? I still have no idea, but I'm letting myself be neutral for now - because after all, the twins are just as confused and conflicted as I am right now. I'm sure that the next book will expand both the conundrum and its nuances, laying things out as they must come to grips with their discoveries, and I'm waiting until then to decide what I think as well.

If I'm being completely honest, though, I did have some serious believability issues with the central concept of the story. I felt like it was a rather large leap of the imagination to believe that - argh, back to the no-spoilers barrier! Well, anyway, it was a bit unrealistic. But you know what? I'm totally suspending judgement until I've read at least one or two more books in the series - because I've been reading Haddix's writing for long enough that I know she can get me to believe anything. Heck, I read an eight-book series about time travel and popped out the other side full of jargon like "tracer," "time ripple," and "elucidator." If anyone can parse something down into the nitty-gritty and make me believe in it, it's Margaret Peterson Haddix.

At the end of the day, Under Their Skin is a captivating read full of breathtaking twists, heart-stopping dilemmas, and a fascinating scenario that can only become more exciting as the series continues. My only real complaint is that the sequel isn't here already - because seriously, I need to know what happens next!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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