Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess

This novel is written as if the events actually happened. The introduction even starts "Just about everyone knows the story of Jonathan Heat and Sara Carter" (Burgess 1). Needless to say that after feeling out of the loop and Googling those people, I discovered that it is not a true story. The novel, though, is still written as if everyone knows what happened. The introduction lets the reader know that Heat is in jail for his crimes and Sara is incommunicado, but beyond that, the events that "everyone knows" aren't fully revealed.
Before I tell the "story" I should indulge that this novel isn't so much a story/narrative as a pseudo documentary detailing what happened. The events are retold by characters involved through "interviews" and the occasional video diary from Sara. Some sections do take on a story like appearance with a third person omniscient narrator, but it still has a feel as if like these events are recreated for the enjoyment of the audience. It's an interesting and awkward storytelling to describe but it seemed more like a documentary than a novel.
Here's the story being reported: Jonathan Heat was a pop star obsessed with his looks. He went through so many plastic surgeries to reinvent himself to the point that his face was actually deteriorating and he hid behind a mask. Sara Carter was a young girl also reinventing herself with different voiced and personas. At the young age of 16 or 17 she was considering plastic surgery. After an accident with an iron she met Heat who welcomed her into his home due to her singing talent and promised to get her the plastic surgery she wanted. Many people thought she was too young and not stable for the surgery, but Heat and Wayland Kaye - the crazed plastic surgeon - saw nothing wrong with giving her an operation. During her time at Heat's mansion, Sara started to see a ghost - a young girl wearing her clothes without a face. Obviously spooked, she reconsiders the operation to the point of thinking about running away but yet Heat and Kaye insist that she was fine and in perfect condition (physically and mentally) for the operation. Fears abound, though, that this operation is more than a nose and boob job but rather a face transplant for Heat. Whether that actually happen isn't confirmed or denied until the end...
The story is intriguing, especially with the ghost mystery. What's even more scary is the reality behind the story. Not only is there a prevalence of teens having surgery but also the fact that there has been a real face transplant. Granted the real life face transplants were only the lower half of the face, doctors are exploring the possibilities. Kaye didn't seem like the sanest of all surgeons. He and Heat were very obsessed with pushing the plastic surgery button that it was almost scary to think about what they could and would do. More than likely there are doctors out there like Kaye who might resort to deception and murder to see what they are truly capable of. This novel did a good job of exploring those horrors.
It also presented an interesting insight into the plastic surgery obsession. Heat and Sara suffered from an undiagnosed illness where they were incapable of seeing their beauty. It was as if they didn't recognize themselves in the mirror and that's why they desired plastic surgery to create an image that they would recognize. So many people in today's society have image issues that it is possible that it might be a medical problem. Just today (7/10) on the Good Morning America they were talking about people who cannot recognize/remember people's faces because of a brain malfunction. It might be possible that people are obsessed with plastic surgery because they physically don't recognize the face in the mirror.
This turned out to be a thought provoking novel. The writing style was interesting and the more I think about it, I don't think it would have been as effective written as a typical novel/story. Treating it as if this were a real event makes one realize how possible this horrible event is. I've had somewhat of a delayed reaction to the book. At first I wasn't impressed, but the more I think about it, the more I'm intrigued. My advice is to just give the book time. I think the end is worth it.

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