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This is an unusual bildungsroman by Alysa Phillips that spans over eight years of the author’s own life and takes the reader through the motions of an early adulthood burdened by inner turmoil. The autobiography is loosely structured around her interactions with the various men that come in and out of her life, deeply impacting the way she moves through the world. From her father, an obsessively controlling and omnipresent figure in the early parts of her life, to her boyfriend Joel, whose family are all members of a religious medical cult (one of whose members was the kidnapper in the high profile Elizabeth Smart case), these men all work to suppress Alysa’s sense of self. One after another, they chip away at her physically and emotionally until she feels herself slipping away from reality. Phillips writes openly about how she dealt with the intense pain by turning the feelings of worthlessness inwards. The descriptions of her self injury are graphic and visceral, intent on showing others that they are not alone in the way they handle their pain. Sometimes it is a little claustrophobic being so close to her darkest thoughts and Phillips pulls you in deep to the point where you may need to turn away. However, her language, while jarring, is compelling and poetic enough to keep you reading. This is a novel for the alienated and marginalized, important in that it gives a voice to those silenced by abuse. Stranger in My Skin resists the urge to be safe and tie the issues it deals with up into a tightly wrapped package, choosing instead to remain genuine to the personal conflicts that accompany depression. (Nicole Freedom)

by Alysa Phillips, $14.95, 284 pgs, Word Warriors Press, 920 Blackoaks Lane, Anoka, MN 55303,

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