I just finished reading Skin Hunger, because its sequel, Sacred Scars, is on the Cybils shortlist for YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Oh yeah, my category got switched, because one of the YA panelists had a conflict of interest, so jumped to the middle-grade panel. So I jumped to YA! Which I'm excited about. It was actually my first choice. I'm not supposed to review the actual shortlisted books, but I don't see the harm in reviewing a prequel.
The premise and writing in Skin Hunger make me think not of your average YA fantasy novel but of a kind of Lord of the Flies meets The Chocolate War. Dark story, impossible love, evil people, dying children pitted against one another, non-happy cliffhanger ending, etc. Definitely more the kind of book your English teacher would assign you to read in high school---not necessarily the kind of book you'd grab for "fun." There wasn't anything you could call fun about this book. But it was intriguiging, fascinating, and deep. The focus is on the characters themselves and their flaws more than on the magic of the fantasy world the author's created. The world and its laws definitely take a backseat to the characters. I might even say they're in the trunk. I'll definitely be interested to see where the second book will take the story. I'm about to go dig in right now. For language and thematic reasons, I'd recommend this for older teens.