Faceless by Alyssa Shienmel

When Maisie is struck by lightning, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant, but how do you live your life when you can't even recognise yourself anymore? 

She was a runner, a girlfriend, a good student...a normal girl. Now, after a single freak accident, all that has changed. As Maisie discovers how much her looks did and didn't shape her relationship with the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what 'lucky' really means (from Amazon). 


Having heard mixed reviews of Faceless, I decided to just give it a go for myself and make up my own mind about it. Now having read it, I can see where both sides are coming from with their praise and criticisms. I did like it, though. 

Maisie is our protagonist, and one day when she's out running she has a terrible accident. After months of being in a medically-induced coma, Maisie wakes up to discover she has no idea who to be anymore, that without a face she feels she no longer has an identity other than 'the freak with a melted face'. 

The subject matter of the book is an interesting one, as it's not something I frequently see on the shelves. Faceless provided quite a mature but honest take on skin transplants, graft versus host disease, and the physical and emotional recovery in the long months after the accident. You can feel Maisie's pain, her confusion, her need to find a new definition for herself. I liked Maisie as a character, and her journey throughout the book felt like it moved at the right pace for who she was. Maisie is a bright, driven young girl and she struggled to accept the life she thought she was going to have had been ripped away, but she persevered on and created a new plan as she grew to accept herself. 

Maisie's support network included her parents, her best friend Serena and her boyfriend Chirag. Despite her parents marital problems and their constant fighting before her accident, they put that all to the side to be there for their daughter. Her best friend tries to keep things as normal as they were before, trying to talk about things like they used to. Her boyfriend has spent months researching what's happened to her, and steps up to make sure how to take care of her. But while everyone thinks they're helping, Maisie feels stifled and like decisions are being made for her, and the insight into her mind as she works through all of this feels real to me. 

While I can appreciate Chirag's dedication to Maisie, his guilt about what happened that makes him stay by her side, he annoyed me. The entire book he tries to be perfect, and it makes him actually quite bland for me. Their entire relationship didn't seem to have any real chemistry, but I guess that's the point; everything changed with the accident, so did they.

The ending lets the book down a little bit, actually. It's what people warned me about. Maisie finally reaches acceptance of what happened, of her new face, and is ready to face the future of college in New York. That's quite heartwarming to read, and then there's this shit about how everything gets tied up nicely. Her parents announce their separation, which she knew should have come a long time ago, but they part as friends and they both want to remain a part of Maisie's life. Serena and Maisie repair their friendship, which I am happy for, but it does have to be added to this list. Maisie and Chirag kiss at their prom, and she tells him she loves him. Everything is good, and everyone is happy, but it doesn't feel right for the book. I don't know how I expected it to end, but this just didn't do it for me. 

Faceless was a surprise, because it did feel so intimate and well-researched. For the most part, the book is really very good. Maisie is a broken protagonist but as you read she puts herself back together, creating Maisie 2.0, and you do feel part of her journey. I'll be looking out for more books like this, I think. Might even read some of Shienmel's other books - have been contemplating Second Star, so that may appear on one of my baskets in the coming months. 

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