Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 2016
Children’s novel for grades 5-8: adventure, science fiction
Eryn and Nick’s mother has just sprung three pieces of big news on them: she’s getting remarried, they’re moving to a new house, and they will have stepsiblings that they will never meet. These stepsiblings are named Ava and Jackson, and they’re about twelve, just like Eryn and Nick. But that’s all the information that the grownups will share. So on a snow day when the twins are home alone, they do some snooping and find the Ava and Jackson. As it turns out, their stepsiblings are robots, and this discovery prompts a series of other discoveries. The world is nothing like Eryn and Nick have always thought it is. Spoiler: In this novel, all adults are robots.
Fans of Haddix’s many previous books will find this one likable for all the same reasons. The narrative voice is straight-forward and believable, the action is fast and adventurous, and the plot is very thought-provoking. Particularly intellectual readers can find plenty of symbolism and pull some interesting questions from this book about the relationship between children and adults, the nature of machines and artificial intelligence, and whether it’s always a good thing to follow rules. This is the type of book that, once you start it, you really don’t want to put it down. Consider this a warning that the ending leaves loose threads. The author’s website promises that this is the first of a duology, but no information is available yet about the sequel.
Additional information for teachers and parents:
Lexile score: 760 L
Other leveled reading information is not currently available, but you can consult this chart for estimates. Look in the area of Level U and please keep in mind that these numbers and levels are all estimates and do not necessarily take maturity of content into consideration. This is an example of a book where the official reading level gears younger than the actual target audience.