DISCLAIMER: I borrowed this book from the library and have not been compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I first heard about this book when it was mentioned on an episode of the Self Publishing Podcast and was immediately struck by the premise. The big draw for me was that the main character is a different person each day, and the reason it attracted me is that I've got a few future stories that revolve around the same premise. It's always interesting to see how a single idea can turn into infinite stories, and I wanted to see how this one played out.
The main character is a 16-year-old named A, who is of unspecified gender but feels like a male to me, so I'm going to refer to A as a male. A is without a body of his own and wakes up in a new body each day. There are some vague rules about how this works, including that A is never the same person twice, only inhabits people his age (as in, inhabits a specific age for a year, like 5, then only 6 year olds, then only 7 year olds, etc, which suggests A is aging like a normal person),
and that there seems to be some kind of geographical constraints to who he can possess. I mean inhabit. Nah, let's call it possession.
Essentially, A hijacks somebody's life, but only for a day, and for the most part he tries to be as unobtrusive as possible. He tries to do what's in his host's best interest (do their homework, be a good boyfriend/girlfriend, even save a depressed host's life), but he doesn't really get what he wants, because nothing he has is permanent. Until he meets a girl and falls in love and then decides he'll do whatever he wants in order to be with her.
(Spoilers: it doesn't work out.)
This book is categorized as young adult, and while I'm not exactly the target audience, there was a lot I liked in it. The story's greatest strength is the writing. A's voice is distinct, engaging, and there's a wonderful succinctness to it. A is smart and reflective and relatable, whether he's doing the "right" or "wrong" thing. He's exactly the character needed to carry the story. We hardly get any description in the book, but the voice creates atmosphere all on its own. A++ for the writing.
I also like the concept (obviously). Being a different person every day is the ultimate expression of solitude, and this book captures it well.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for a young adult audience is its accessibility for serious topics such as depression, sexuality and death. As someone who's lived thousands of lives, A has great tolerance for the things that can seem so monumental in the moment, yet are inconsequential in the bigger picture. I think a lot of young readers who feel like they don't belong would find both comfort and wisdom from the story.
That said, there were a few things I didn't fully buy into. The romance played a much larger part than I was anticipating. I found the secondary characters (the people A was inhabiting) quite a bit more interesting than the girl A was in love with, and as A became more and more obsessed with making their relationship work, he became less and less interested in his hosts and thus there was less about them in the book. I also thought that the other major conflict (a former host has some memory of being possessed and his story goes viral), which I would have preferred be the main conflict, was underdeveloped and abruptly concluded. I would have liked to see that concept explored more.
There were a few lines in the book that made me sit up and think. My favorite was this:
If you demonize a person's pleasure, you can control his or her life. (p.223)
There's so much truth in that, and it hit me hard enough that it's making me evaluate who (or what) is controlling my life, and how I can get control back. I think this book is chock full of life wisdom, and it's delivered very well.
I liked the book. Quite a bit. I didn't love it, and I didn't beat my head against the wall wishing I'd written it. But I really liked it. 3/5 stars.