Sunday, December 19, 2010

REVIEW: Body Swap by Jerome Parisse

For a Young Adult novella, this one had some surprising depth. William is an interesting, well-rounded young man (who happens to have a strange fetish for coffee grinders, thanks to his grandmother), and Pat is a perfectly awkward best friend (with an equally strange fetish for big words, thanks to his own grandmother). As for Samantha . . . for a girl who spends most of the book off-stage in a coma, she's surprisingly well-crafted.

This is a story that I found worked on several levels, although not quite as I expected. While there are some comic moments, Jerome avoids the all-too obvious temptation to succumb to teenage slapstick comedy. Instead, we're presented with a serious story of love and friendship, one that explores feeling of alienation and of being different. There is a subplot involving William's dead sister and his mother's inability to cope with that loss that is particularly moving, and which is used very well as part of the book's conclusion.

Personally, I had hoped William would spend more time in Samantha's body, but that portion of the book is very well-handled and (most importantly) quite realistic. The obligatory scenes of struggling with a bra and heels are there, but it's handled with sensitivity instead of being used for slaptstick comedy. His interractions with Samatha's mother are almost painful to watch, and we cringe along with him at every agonizing step. His emotional and mental struggles are the focus here (one again, he's the kid who doesn't fit in), and they are really quite touching.

I have to say, however, that there is one moment of cruelty where William (as Samantha) weaves a fictional tale of violent parental abuse to some of Samantha's friends. The way that scene played out particularly irked me. Even though it does have it's consequences later on, it really severed my emotional ties to William, and I found it very difficult to reconnect with him in any sympathetic manner again until the very end.

Now, I don't want to end on a downer, so I'll add this - the interplay between William and Pat after the body swap, with Pat crushing on Samatha's body and being unable (or unwilling) to separate that physical appearance from his best friend's personality, is very amusing . . . and actually quite touching.

No comments:

Post a Comment