Book Review

Skin Game by Caroline Kettlewell


One February day in the seventh grade, I was apprehended in the girls’ bathroom at school, trying to cut my arm with my Swiss Army knife.  It is always February in the seventh grade, that terrible border year, that dangerous liminal interlude (p. 3).


Transitions are difficult to manage.  Transitions can feel like the month of February: gloomy for months without any sign of spring.  Skin Game is a memoir about transitions.  Caroline Kettlewell is an intelligent woman who struggles with cutting and anorexia while transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.  Ms. Kettlewell describes her history with clarity, depth and a touch of humor that takes you by surprise given the gravity of the topic.  Reading Skin Game is not like witnessing an accident nor is it overly dramatic.  As you witness Ms. Kettlewell’s life unfold, her descriptions do not make you feel faint but instead, you feel connected to her story.  You smell the paint and disinfectant in the women’s restroom, hear the radiator clank and hiss, see her veins described as meandering like “a roadmap underneath her skin” (p. 5). 


Skin Game helps to make a difficult-to-understand behavior seem more comprehensible and less startling.  The book illustrates a behavior that many students use to manage their pain, hurt or stress.  Though you may have little experience with cutting or anorexia, you will connect with Ms. Kettlewell’s experiences because Skin Game is more than an insider’s view of self-injury.  It is a coming-of-age story about the struggles and “months of Februaries” that Ms. Kettlewell transitioned through while trying to construct her identity and place in this world.  


More information and a Reader’s Guide can be found at


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