Cover image for The skin I'm in
The skin I'm in
Flake, Sharon.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Maine : Thorndike Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
173 pages ; 23 cm
Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like.
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X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

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Maleeka Madison is a strong student who has had enough of being teased about her "too black" skin and handmade clothes. So when she starts seventh grade, she decides to adopt a sassier attitude and a tougher circle of friends. The last thing she expects is to get "messed up" with another "freak," but that's exactly what happens.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Whether the setting is a tough city neighborhood or a poor Hawaiian village, bullies are scary, gangs are trouble, and it's hard to be different. In both these YA novels, a middle-schooler feels like an outcast and struggles for acceptance. Be sure to connect these books with the Read-alikes column "Bullies" [BKL S 1 97]. In Flake's novel, Maleeka Madison feels like a freak in her inner-city middle school. The kids pick on her because she's "the darkest, worst-dressed thing in school" and because she gets good grades. The leader of the pack is Charlese, who pulls and pushes Maleeka into wilder and wilder delinquent behavior. A new teacher tries to help and so does a smart, friendly boy. In the end, Maleeka stands up for herself, wins the poetry contest, and likes the skin she's in. The message is overt ("Strut your stuff . . . accept yourself for who you are"), but first novelist Flake lessens the sermonizing. Funny and clever, she's honest about how mean people are, how hard it is. The characters are complex: even the cute, friendly boyfriend fails Maleeka one time when she most needs him; the teacher is vulnerable as well as strong; the bad girl's home is a disaster. The gum-smacking, wisecracking dialogue in the hallways, the girls' bathroom, and the classroom will pull readers into a world too rarely represented in middle-grade fiction. Every outsider kid will get it, every victim of class bullies. Salisbury's novel also has many scenes that take place in the classroom, and the teacher is a mentor who tries to help. Small and bespectacled, Boy Kahekilimaikalani Regis is terrified of the pack of wild "jungle" dogs that he has to confront on his early-morning paper route near his island village. His older brother, Damon, calls Boy "sissy," but at school and on the street, Damon has always watched out for Boy. Now Boy wants Damon to stay out of things: the macho challenges are just intensifying the gang warfare and the danger for everyone. Boy makes himself face the scary dogs, and he tries to get his brother to see that everything doesn't have to be fight or die. The classroom project--" Who Do You Look Up To?--is too messagey, but Boy's answer about his enemy is both tentative and realistic ("I even look up to a boy I don't like very much because I know he cares about things"). Boy's "worn-out, dirt-stained" home is loving despite the conflicts, and there's a strong sense of the rough teenage world, where one boy tries to stop the hating. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-In Sharon Flake's novel (Hyperion/ Jump at the Sun, 1998), Maleeka Madison, a shy seventh-grader, eventually finds inner strength and self-confidence wiht the help of a new teacher after a troubling series of events at school. Since she started middle school, Maleeka has been struggling to fit in with her classmates; her dark skin and homemade outfits make her an easy target for bullies. A new teacher in the English department, Miss Saunders, is also harassed due to a skin deformity, and she believes that she can make a connection with Maleeka that will steer her away from the tough clique of girls who influence her. She encourages Maleeka to write during her free time as a way to express her frustrations. When one of the girls pressures Maleeka to take part in an attack on Miss Saunders' classroom, and Maleeka is blamed for the incident, she finally realizes who has her best interests at heart and learns to stand up for herself. Sisi Aisha Johnson narrates with skill, giving voice to the inner-city characters as well as special attention to the voice of Maleeka's fictional character, Akeelma. Through her narration, listeners recognize the attitude in Charlese's voice, Miss Saunders' educated background, and Caleb's gentle nature. This novel, with its realistic urban dialogue and slang, will resonate with many middle school girls, despite some level of predictability in the plot. A good choice for middle schools and public libraries.-Casey Rondini, Hartford Public Library, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.