Review: Kathryn Barker – In the Skin of a Monster

In The Skin of a Monster
Kathryn Barker

Alice’s twin sister killed people in their local school. Since she was identical to Alice, people can’t see Alice for who she is, they can only see her deadly sister. When Alice is swept up into a dream world, things get even more complicated, and it’s no longer clear what is going on.

25380845DON’T READ THE BLURB. It will trick you into thinking that this novel is straightforward. Instead, you need to go into it with a mind blasted wide open, with the ability to let it stretch further. This is one very strange novel.

I would have liked a more concrete approach to dealing with things. Swapping between the different perspectives was more confusing that I would have liked. I just couldn’t grasp anything that was going on. Nevertheless, the dream-scape set up is amazing and well described. The author appeared to think of everything that could possibly exist in it – bubbles of people, monsters, everything else!

It was quite compulsive reading, despite its faults. Did I actually like Alice? No, most of the time I thought she was an idiot. Did I really understand what happened? Goodness no. Did I keep reading anyway? Yes. I ended the novel feeling completely disorientated and annoyed. Even after running over the plot with my partner, I couldn’t work out what the point of the whole novel was.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this novel is going to expose great secrets of a person who looks like a murderer. Yes, killing people causes a great lasting impact, but people do recover. I don’t think this shows enough recovery. Mainly it shows people being stupid.

I can only think negatives about how Alice punishes herself for being like her sister. She’s committed to a mental institution for 3 years. I can understand the guilt she feels, but at the same time it should have been obvious to her that it’s not her fault and that she isn’t the same person. This got even more confusing for me as time went on, because it wasn’t clear whether Alice had demented thinking caused by the incident, or it was from the beginning. Just because you are identical to someone doesn’t mean you have to live like them.

I don’t know whether to suspend my disbelief for the story or not. In fact, unlike other novels I have read in this genre, this novel is not fiction that would fit into the everyday run of things. The attempts at making this fit into the Australian landscape fail miserably.

I mainly just came away from this very confused. There are other novels that are more awesome than this one. If you want to give this one a go, go right ahead. But if you’re looking for something with a convincing dreamscape, I’d be going for something like Dreamfire – I gave it 5 stars, go and try it out.


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