So I literally JUST finished Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel and must say that this is a breath of fresh YA air.
It’s about Maisie, a high-school girl badly burned in an electrical fire, who is given the opportunity for a face transplant. She agrees, thinking someone else’s face is better than no face at all, but we see her struggle with all the other aspects of her decision: the alleged changes to her personality, the pills she must take every day for the rest of her life and which make her too tired to be the straight-A student she was before, and of course, the constant staring.
There have been a few stories like this on my radar recently, all discussing the intense importance placed on looks, and how something that really shouldn’t affect what you can do – your conventional attractiveness – actually affects every area of your life. Faceless is not an entirely new concept, but I really liked the way Sheinmel pulled it off.
I read this book in just a couple of sittings, and it was a while before I realised exactly what it was that was making me want to stay up all night reading. The writing wasn’t amazing, but it was the characters that really did it for me.
Usually, I find I really like a character or I really don’t like them. It’s very rare that I find a character who I feel about the way I would feel about someone in real life: I love them, but they have annoying habits. It’s a mixed bag.
I felt very much this way about Maisie and her parents. At first, she was brattish, and usually I would roll my eyes and decide I hated the main character for this flaw. However, I could understand her struggle, and I believed that this was exactly how I would act if I were in her shoes. I understood her frustration with her mum, even though I couldn’t see what her mum was doing wrong. Sheinmel created a really true-to-life main character, and still has the ability to see the world through the eyes of a teenager.
I didn’t like Chirag, however, but I liked how he and Maisie stood at the end of the novel. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say Chirag and Maisie’s relationship was not the be-all and end-all of the book.
‘I liked some of those movies!’
‘Yeah, but he always refused to watch any of the movies you loved. I was always the one who had to come over to watch When Harry Met Sally… and Two for the Road and The Philadelphia Story.’
I shake my head. ‘I guess I forgot about that.’ I forgot that there was anything about Chirag I disliked before my accident.
I loved this dialogue between Serena and Maisie. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I convinced myself he had been this amazing boyfriend when actually, he was annoying and kind of manipulative. I’ve never seen this idealisation reflected in fiction before! Maisie’s descriptions of Chirag prior to this conversation made him sound like the perfect guy and therefore less real, but this conversation brought his character to life for me, and also added to the realism of Maisie’s and Serena’s characters.
I adored Serena. Her relationship with Maisie was awesome. She is such a good friend and Sheinmel did such a good job of showing just how intense the best-friend relationship can be, often just as dramatic as a romantic relationship.
I did feel it was the young adult version of Wonder by R. J. Palacio – there was even a Halloween scene! However, Auggie had grown up looking the way he looked, whereas Maisie had to deal with having been a pretty girl before the accident. It’s also for a slightly older audience, and the tone is very different.
Faceless also did not make me cry. Believe it or not, this is a con for me! I feel like a book can’t really be fully amazing if it didn’t make me tear up at least a little bit, and the lack of emotional reaction is what kept me from giving it 5 stars. However, I’d definitely recommend this book and maybe for someone whose heart is less stony, it might induce some ‘feels’.
My rating: 4/5.
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