Ever Wake Up in Someone Else's Body? That is the tag line for Martyn Bedford's Flip. The body switching concept is nothing new. Sometimes it is done in a comedic fashion, sometimes in a creepy thriller fashion. Bedford's novel is closer to the creepy thriller side, but it is mostly a story about a boy named Alex who wants nothing more than to have his own life back.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
One December night, 14-year-old Alex goes to bed. He wakes up to find himself in the wrong bedroom, in an unfamiliar house, in a different part of the country, and it's the middle of June. Six months have disappeared overnight. The family at the breakfast table are total strangers. And when he looks in the mirror, another boy's face stares back at him. A boy named Flip. Unless Alex finds out what's happened and how to get back to his own life, he may be trapped forever inside a body that belongs to someone else.
Alex, an asthmatic awkward teen, wakes up one morning in the body of a much better looking athletic boy. Here is what I liked most about Alex: he was terrified and confused and never once went through a, "I'm going to live it up and do whatever I want because wow look at me now" phase. He begins merely trying to survive as Flip while figuring out what happened to him, Alex. He does take advantage of the fact he has a girlfriend to gain some kissing experience, but even this is done thoughtfully. He knows he doesn't like the girl at all. Despite Flip's family being wealthier, Alex misses his own family because his memories are with them and he knows they love him. He misses making music with his clarinet and playing chess with his best friend. This makes Alex sympathetic and likable, if a little flat as a character.
Through this plot a lot of questions on the nature of the soul and the afterlife are explored. The questions are interesting ones and Alex's frustration with his inability to find clear answers is evident. When Alex is questioning the religious studies teacher at his school we get this: The soul and the mind were not the same thing at all, in his opinion. Although, he had to point out that different faiths had different ideas about the nature of the soul-and the mind for that matter-and given that they were both abstract concepts, none of us could say with any certainty...and so on. As for where souls went at death and how they got there, Mr. McQueen set off on another global tour of belief systems tying himself in knots in his attempt not to set one particular theory above any other. Little wonder Alex was frustrated. As much as I appreciated the humor and accuracy in this paragraph I couldn't help but hear the author's voice intruding into the narrative. There are a couple of other places where I got the same impression. The quest for answers is an interesting thread in the plot but is buried under the dramatic conclusion (which was certainly riveting and well written) so nothing is ever completely explained. I rather liked this element, but people who like their stories all tied up in the end will not.
The story is fast paced and interesting and Alex's voice is very genuine teen boy. I would certainly recommend this one to those I know looking for such a book.