This is a deceptively simple read. The title is quite clever – I thought it was just a reference to the body-swap story, but then it turns out that swotty geek Alex Gray has woken up in Philip (Flip) Garamond’s hot athlete body, in the middle of a strange family – who naturally all think he’s acting very oddly.
The plot is therefore simple: Alex/Flip coming to terms with his strange new life, a botched attempt to reconnect with his original family in London, attempting to find answers on the internet and, when he discovers that his original body is in a coma after a hit and run, a desperate sortie to try and reverse this psychic evacuation. Plus coping with a much more complex love life than he’s used to.
The story works because Alex is immensely likeable (all the characters are very well-written: Flip’s witty older sister and Cherry in particular): he’s smart but not a know-it-all at all, searching for answers. Ideas around the mind, soul, and essential human identity are explored, and the way different religions view what has happened to him (none of them believe it). None of this is heavy-handed, and it’s completely believable. There are some comedic moments but mostly I found it quite sad: Rob’s life, for example, was incredibly sad.
The whole concept was handled in a very straight, this-is-really-happening kind of way, right down to the end where emails from different psychic evacuees are posted on the website where Alex met Rob. Even these were quite affecting.
Psychic evacuation: 2 souls connected by proximity at time of birth are ‘twinned.’ If one of them should die prematurely (say by age 24), then he or she may find a way to enter the other’s body – so the psychic twin dies instead. Although the psychic evacuee website considers that many souls, probably, fight off this invasion, if a soul really wants to live – it can win, and evacuates the original soul.
Some reviewers say it’s a clichéd plot, others that it’s a unique concept? Don’t know where I stand on that, but it’s a fresh, thoughtful, very well-written book. If I was to be picky: police involvement for stalking – seems like plod in a lot of YA stories have so little to do with their time they love to waste it trying to prosecute non-criminals. And the end: satisfactory in almost all respects – but Flip himself was left hanging in terms of what the reader knows, and left in a very difficult situation by Alex. I felt Alex should have been much more proactive trying to see what had become of him and owed it to him to help. The poor guy’s probably been banged up for psychotic tendencies.
Despite that: 5 stars
What Works And Why?
We read to escape, enjoy, engage, and find out more about our world. So reading is great - but what makes a great read? A page dedicated to short analyses of how writers engage readers.