It may not surprise you to learn that as a child I loved me a show called Quantum Leap. Scott Bakula, wacky person-in-a-different-body hijinks… to my elementary-school self, it was the greatest. Today you could not pay me to watch an episode as it can only have aged poorly, but I will cherish my childhood-tinged memories forever.
So of course I was intrigued by the premise of this book, in which a 16-year-old kid (entity? being?) we’ll call A wakes up every morning in a different body — always has and presumably always will. This is life for A, and A is more or less happy to put up with it, until the day A falls in love with Rhiannon, the girlfriend of A’s current body. A can’t get Rhiannon out of their head and breaks all of the rules they’ve made for themself to try to make a relationship with Rhiannon work.
I found this book incredibly interesting at its premise — it does a really good job making you think about identity (gender, most obviously, but other forms of identity as well) and how it is all completely constructed by ourselves and the people around us and how uncomfortable other people are when these constructions are challenged. There’s also some intriguing talk (spoilers? ish?) about how A exists and what happens to the people in the bodies A briefly inhabits and what would happen if A never left.
But that romance plotline? Ehhhhhhh. I was more or less okay with it when I read the book, as I was focused more on the stuff noted above, but as I talked about it with my book group I started to like it less and less. It’s a weird and creepy relationship that is hugely selfish and places Rhiannon in an impossible situation and potentially hurts many other people in the process and it’s just, again, weird and creepy. Full disclosure, though, one book-club-mate found it super incredibly romantic, so it’s possible that if you are or are temporarily inhabited by a 16-year-old you will feel the same way?
Other book-clubbers had issues with an odd B-plot storyline wherein a kid and later a pastor become obsessed with A and it leads to some half-formed revelations about A’s existence and possibilities that would have needed their own entire book to become fully formed. I didn’t mind that we didn’t get any closure on some of those things, but it was definitely a bone of contention at book club.
There’s a companion novel to this, called Another Day, that tells the same story from Rhiannon’s point of view, and I’m kind of interested to see if her side of the story helps fill in some of the weird blanks left in A’s story but I’m worried it will just make those gaps even larger. I don’t know. I’m pretty content leaving this story where it left itself, and moving on to better things.
Recommendation: For anyone who thrives on improbable romance stories, slightly less for anyone who is interested in one author’s take on identity politics.