Title: Under My Skin
Author: Lisa Unger
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Park Row
A year ago, Poppy’s husband was brutally murdered while out for an early-morning jog. Poppy can’t remember what happened to her in the days following his death. She hasn’t been the same ever since. At night, she’s having terrible nightmares, and during the day, she keeps seeing a hooded man who follows her everywhere. But how much of this is real? Are the nightmares memories? Does the hooded man even exist? But, most importantly, does Poppy have buried memories of who killed her husband, and if she does, does she even want to remember?
Poppy is a photographer, and though she hasn’t photographed anything since her husband’s death, her perspective—the way she sees the world—is coloured by her artist’s perspective. She evaluates the people around her, not just the persona that they show to the world, but who they really are. What lies Under their skin. This unique perspective was more noticeable earlier in the book, and as the story’s events unfold, it becomes clear that Poppy isn’t quite as observant as she believed herself to be.
Unger’s writing style is very candid, which makes this book not only an easy read, but an enveloping one. Poppy’s perspective, the way she talked, the introspection, was all very engrossing and it was easy for me to get lost in the words on the pages. That said, I found that Under My Skin has a little too much character development. In my notes, I wrote that at 10%, while the book is engaging and the characters interesting, not much had happened yet. This changes, but I noticed that the book slowed again significantly at 80%. It felt like the story was wrapping up when the climax had yet to happen.
This book has a little too much detail. It has a little too much introspection. It’s a little too repetitive. Sometimes Unger repeats events and comments and observations, which may be for effect, but it was at the expense of pacing and plot.
There are numerous flashbacks and nightmarish hallucinations throughout Under My Skin. The transitions between were sometimes quite clear. For example, Poppy would say “I time travel” and at that point it’s clear that she’s remember Jack from when he was alive. Other times, the transitions were not clear, which nicely mimicked in me, as a reader, the experiences that Poppy was going through. Poppy couldn’t tell the past and nightmares from reality, so why should the reader be able to distinguish between the two? This was well done, but at times it felt overdone.
Finally, I want to mention that there were a few loose ends that were left undealt with at the end of the novel. One or two of them were addressed in that aggravatingly common “we may never know” type of conversation between two characters. Others were not addressed at all. This, unfortunately, bumped the rating down a complete star. I decided not to include spoilers here, but if you’re curious or want to discuss the plot holes, leave a comment down below!
Under My Skin, while heavy in characterization, is a quick read with an intriguing concept. Unger takes a trope that’s been seen time and time again (the main character with partial-to-total amnesia) and gives it a fresh take. While this book doesn’t have the strongest plot, the main character is interesting, and Unger expertly weaves flashbacks and present-day events into a story that delves into themes of insanity, grief, and good, old-fashioned mystery solving.
I recommend this book to those who are looking for a character-driven psychological thriller that is well-written and engaging. There are just enough plot twists and turns to keep the story interesting until its last pages.
*Thank you to Park Row and Netgalley for the advanced reader copy!*
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