cover image Sara's Face

Sara's Face

Melvin Burgess, . . S&S, $16.99 (264pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-3617-6

If you want to be a work of art, you have to suffer a bit," says 17-year-old Sara Carter. Sara suffers more than a bit in Burgess's (Smack ; Doing It ) terrifying thriller/morality play, in which she gets the spotlight. Obsessed with both stardom and physical perfection, Sara is also accident-prone, and a face-down encounter with a hot iron seems to put a permanent red mark on her quest for fame. Enter Jonathon Heat, billionaire pop star who endlessly reinvents himself, with the help of controversial plastic surgeon Dr. Kaye. Burgess draws a chilling parallel between over-the-hill icon Jonathon Heat and Michael Jackson, in Heat's attempts to look young, and in setting up a bedroom for Sara on his posh, sprawling estate. Heat shows Sara his face (which he hides under a mask), reduced to shreds after so much surgery. Bernadette, a savvy and kind nurse, and Sara's boyfriend, Mark, provide intermittent reality checks for the outlandish situation. Sara soon begins to see apparitions of a girl with no face, and Sara and Mark discover a locked room giving off the smell of rotting meat. Burgess tells the story through the narrative of a novelist-turned–investigative journalist, alternating with transcripts of Sara's video diaries (in one spine-tingling scene, she corners the "ghost," with echoes of The Blair Witch Project ). Burgess wraps his message about vanity and celebrity-obsessed culture in a nightmarish, unforgettable story. Ages 12-up. (May)