Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Flip

Originally published on June 14, 2012.

I've been meaning to read Flip by Martyn Bedford ever since the young adult book group in my library science program selected it as their "book of the month" (which was several months ago). I can't actually attend their meetings, since I no longer live in the same city as my university, but I do try to keep up on what they're reading, since they're usually a pretty good barometer of what's popular right now in YA lit.

After actually checking Flip out of the library, I let it sit on my shelf for a couple of weeks. I gathered from the jacket summary that it was a kind of Freaky Friday story, with two teenage boys inexplicably swapping bodies. The first chapter was exactly what I expected from this description, kind of cheesy and nothing too riveting. I started to wonder why this book came so highly recommended. But I kept reading.... and things picked up quickly. It wasn't long before I was so engrossed that I couldn't put the book down (convenient, since the baby wouldn't let me sleep last night).

When 14-year-old Alex wakes up in the body of a stranger (a boy his own age named Phillip), he goes through all the actions that I would expect--he freaks out, tries to tell his "new family" the truth, and tries to contact his own family. Things start to get interesting, though, when he finds that all avenues for contacting his own family have been cut off and, more strangely still, six months have passed since his last memory as Alex. He reluctantly begins to live in Phillip's unfamiliar life, all the while trying to figure out how to get back his own.

He eventually makes contact with a few people from his old life, all of whom angrily refuse to believe that he could possibly be Alex. And then he discovers that Alex--his body, anyway--is lying in a hospital in a coma, hovering between life and death. He then finds an internet support group for "psychic evacuees" and struggles to understand what has happened to him. This leads him to a lot of big questions: What is the soul? Is it different than the brain? If Alex's soul is residing in Phillip's body, then what has happened to Phillip's own soul? Has Alex somehow unknowingly killed the essence of Phillip in his own soul's struggle to survive? Or is there some way to save them both?

While a lot of the elements of this storyline are close to what one might expect in a "body switching" story, I found Alex's contemplations on the nature of the soul to be fascinating. This is Bedford's first novel for young adults, although he has previously published five adult novels (which I now think I'm going to have to check out). I found the characters to be well-developed and believable, with the exception of their ages--Alex/Phillip read much more like a 17-year-old than a 14-year-old. I would definitely recommend this book as a quick, absorbing read, as well as one that yields lasting questions.

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