Title: Sara’s Face
Author: Melvin Burgess
Genre: Social Realism, Young Adult
Publisher: Andersen Press (1st June 2006)
‘There’s a lot of girls prettier than me. Anyone can look good. Talent – that’s not it, either. Everyone’s got talent. They train you up, they work on your voice. If it’s no good they change it in the studio. Talent’s cheap.’
Sara wants to be famous, and when the legendary rock star Jonathon Heat offers to train her up and pay for her cosmetic surgery, it’s like a dream come true. But what if there’s a hidden price? And is Sara willing to pay it . . . ?
Rating: ** (2 stars)
Melvin Burgess is well-known for his young adult, social realist fiction since the publication of his novel Junk in 1996. Sara’s Face carries on this trend, with Burgess looking at the culture of celebrity and of beauty.
I found Sara’s Face a very difficult book, not because I disliked it, not because it disturbed me, but precisely for the opposite reason: when I finished the book, I felt nothing. It’s not really the sort of book you want to walk away from feeling completely unaffected, but I did.
At its heart the book is about the quest for two things: the quest for identity, and the quest for beauty. These two quests are played out through the characters of Sara and of Jonathon Heat. Dr Wayland Kaye is a key player in their quests, and yet he barely exists on the page. There is no question that Sara, Heat and Kaye are enigmatic characters. They’re not easy characters either, and I think that’s the point.
There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn from this book, very few of which are comfortable. In many ways Sara’s Face can be read as a horror story, as it contains a lot of the horror archetypes – monsters, violence, fear. The story isn’t meant to be a comfortable one. It’s meant to make you think.
So why did I only find it okay? Well, I think I just may be too old for this book. I think this book is definitely aimed at its audience and I may know too much of the world, and the horrors it can hold because honestly for me the book didn’t go far enough to make it stick with me.