Book Review: Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

Faceless SheinmelFaceless
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-67601-4

For a teenager, physical appearance is a huge part of the whole identity and self-esteem thing. Maisie Winters has both good and not so good in her life. Good is her running and Chirag, her boyfriend. Not so good is the way her parents fighting is becoming more frequent. One morning she is out running, trying to push herself to remember the prom invitation from the previous evening while hoping doing so will blot out the fight between mom and dad that forced her to stay on the porch instead of inviting Chirag inside so she could share that very special moment with her parents.

Even when she realizes a thunderstorm is approaching, she doesn’t turn back until it’s too late. Just before reaching home, lightning hits a big oak tree, burning a branch so quickly it falls across power lines that hit her before she can react.

A month later, Maisie comes back to reality partially immobilized in a hospital bed and most of her face is covered with sterile bandages. She’s been in a medically induced coma because her burns were so severe doctors didn’t think she’d survive the pain. As things stand, she has horrible burns and part of her face is gone. While she’s trying to understand just how bad her injuries are, and to what extent her life has changed, she’s offered a chance. She’s a candidate for a face transplant, but the decision has to be made quickly if she’s to get on the list.

A short time later, Maisie has new pain to go with a new face. While the transplant gives her back a nose, cheeks and a chin, there are more pills to be taken, she has to accept that the new face won’t feel real or normal for a while, she’s probably never going to be a mother because of all the drugs she’ll have to take and she’s still going to have visible scars on her face and lots of painful physical therapy ahead of her.

All that would be enough to drive a teen insane, but on top of this her parents begin fighting again, she feels depressed and can’t stand being seen. Her self-hatred causes her to isolate and eventually break up with Chirag because she knows he’s uncomfortable with her new face.

What saves her is a group she joins where other young people who have suffered severe injuries meet weekly to share their pain and what they’ve been able to do about it. She connects with Adam who is also a burn victim. His injuries happened while serving in the Marines. He suffered burns, but several of his buddies were killed or gravely wounded. It was very difficult for him to stop feeling anger and survivor’s guilt. Maisie is able to take his experience and new way of looking at life to heart and start her own return from the abyss.

That return isn’t easy, but reading about it restores your faith. This is a gripping book about how one girl deals with an unimaginable and horrific event. It would have been so easy for her to give up numerous times, but she perseveres and in the end, has not only hope, but gratitude. It’s an amazing read.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, March 2016.