I’ve heard a lot of things about Faceless by Alyssa B. Sheinmel, and am a huge fan of the cover so over the weekend I thought I’d dive in. Bear with me through my lengthy review – this was a pretty personal and uncomfortable read so I’m sharing a lot! (and be nice because I don’t generally share about this).
Faceless was a really tough one for me – so much so I nearly didn’t get through it. Though I’ve never had a face transplant, I have an illness which affects my muscles, particularly those in my face. I can’t smile, they call it a ‘snarl’ and my eyes and limbs droop frequently. I have a scar from the base of my neck down to the bottom of my breastbone from where they cut open the breastplate to get to my heart and thymus and I have three extra lumpy scars beneath where they fed tubes into my lungs. So I got the whole ‘ugly’ thing. I got the whole ‘lucky’ thing, as the youngest person my surgeon had ever operated on. I’m on the same medication as Maisie to suppress my immune system. I don’t go out in the sun, I’m at risk of cancer and I can’t wear a bikini. So this book was poking all of my sore spots.
Maybe that’s why I got incredibly irritated with Maisie, because it was bringing up angry, self-pitying feelings that I’m really proud to never really have experienced. I just found her quite selfish and bitter, rather than determined to bounce back. I thought Maisie was pretty ungrateful. Even in my saddest moments, I never ever snapped at my Mum, or was rude to my doctors, because they’re the ones helping and the ones you need to trust. I got angry at the kind of ‘happy ending’, like she had reached her acceptance because I don’t think that really happens. You get used to it, but even I have days where I am still just depressed about not being normal. It was just a little hard to take, a little too perfect and fictional. And then I just got angry because it was fiction and mine is reality (that makes me sound awful but it’s the truth).
But I think perhaps I’m being a little harsh – I think the personal element to this book really really got to me. So much so, that whilst reading my boyfriend actually told me to stop because he could see I was getting upset (the same boyfriend from before I was diagnosed – take that Chirag). Some things the author got head on. Like the idealisation of your old life and how good your memories seem, the tiredness from immunosuppressants, the fact that something like that completely changes who you are, the increased risk of cancer and blood clots, the fear that no one can love you when you’re scarred. It was a painful read but its honesty reminded me how shit it can be to be ill which I try to avoid thinking about.
I think if the book has affected me this much, it has done its job. It has shown how completely awful it is to go through any kind of illness or turn of events, and the way society makes us feel if we are not conventionally ‘normal’. Having said above I was angry at the happy ending, I much more enjoyed the latter half of the book, when she was learning to deal with it, because it stopped drawing up painful memories and became much more hopeful which is how I try to be. So as you can see, I’m completely torn about this book.
I’d love for other people to go and read it, to understand what some people have to go through. This book shows the fear of weekly blood tests looking out for cancer, daily drugs which make you feel rubbish, the slim chances of parenthood and then the fear and revulsion that comes with a scarred body and how much it changes you. Go and read it, and let me know what you think because I’m loving reading all the positive reviews of such a personal book.