Lia Kahn is a beautiful, popular teenager with wealthy parents and a handsome boyfriend to boot. That is until she almost dies in a horrific car accident which shatters her body beyond repair. When she regains consciousness, Lia discovers that her brain has been downloaded into a machine that looks and feels like a human body. Unlike other humans however, Lia will never feel pain; she will never age. She needs neither to eat nor breathe to stay alive, nor does she bleed, sweat or cry tears. But inside her head it seems Lia is exactly the same as she was before the accident. Or is she?
For here’s the rub. Though she longs to return to her old life, Lia is shunned by her old friends and boyfriend, none of whom can see beyond the reality that she has become a ‘mechanical’ or ‘mech’. Even Lia’s own family seems unable to deal with her new ‘skin’.
Skinned charts Lia’s journey to claw back some kind of internal emotional life to go inside her artificial body. Set in a bleak future age when much of humanity has been wiped out by global war, the novel invites the reader to grapple with portentous questions of identity, of genetic engineering, and ultimately of mortality. Lia’s terrifying journey into the nature of self is a thought-provoking one, rendered all the more convincing by the fact that she is sometimes hard to like. Wasserman’s portrayal of the dystopian world that Lia inhabits is also well sustained, drawing the reader into its startling new realities from the first. Skinned is a promising beginning to a planned science fiction trilogy from this US author.