Spot the Difference, by Juno Dawson, is an exclusive World Book Day story aimed at key stage three. The language used and topics addressed would also make it suitable for confident younger readers. At less than one hundred pages long it is a quick read.
The protagonist, Avery, is in Year 10 (around fifteen years old) and suffers from severe acne. She has learned to keep her head down but this has not prevented the A listers in her year naming her ‘Pizzaface’. She looks at their clear skin and shiny hair with envy even though she recognises how mean minded they are.
When a new drug becomes available her mother finally agrees to allow her to try medication in an attempt to cure her complaint. Suddenly she is comfortable with her looks. The transformation is noticed and she starts to receive positive attention from the A listers, but at what cost?
The author addresses the way society regards those who do not conform to a prescribed appearance and how this makes both the conformists and those who do match up to an accepted standard feel. It is not just those who fail to cultivate a certain look who suffer abuse, sometimes as subtle as constant advice on how to ‘improve’, but also those with physical disabilities which they cannot change.
In so few pages this story scratches the surface of a complex problem that is prevalent in every social setting but is hot housed in schools where children have no choice but to spend so much of their time. No easy answers are offered as none exist.
What is suggested is a wider recognition that beneath even the shiniest surface there is darkness. Tempting though it may be to paper over, to hide the cracks, it is these which let in the light by which all may learn.
World Book Day is something of a misnomer as the event runs on different days around the world. UNESCO designated 23 April as an appropriate date for the annual celebration.
“is an opportunity to recognise the power of books to change our lives for the better and to support books and those who produce them. […] Literacy is the door to knowledge, essential to individual self-esteem and empowerment. Books, in all forms, play an essential role here.”
In the UK and Ireland World Book Day falls on the first Thursday in March, the date chosen to avoid clashing with Easter. As well as book related events organised by schools and libraries, all school children are offered a free book or voucher for a book such as the one reviewed here.