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Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.
But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
Alluring and captivating, Change Places with Me wrapped me in an unsettling atmosphere from the very first page. Indeed the questions started piling up at once, breaking through Rose’s apparent happiness, pulling at it, restlessly.
Am I annoying if I say that it’s not the point? Yeah? Okay then, let’s try this : Change Places with Me is an unputdownable scifi/thriller that kept me glued to the pages for hours without allowing me to stop. Given the fact that I have the attention span of a goldfish lately (did you see my DNF shelf? HOPELESS), it’s undoubtedly saying something.
Moreover, Change Places with Me perfectly captures the inherent complexity of the role that memories play in the way we define ourselves, and in that aspect, makes for a thought-provoking read.
Ah, memories. These tricky allies. They help us building ourselves as much as they can pin us down. I’m not going to lie, the way we deal with memories is a sensitive subject for me.
The fact is, having lived through my fair share of grief, I’ve always refused to dwell on the negative. I cannot. Doing that, I realized recently that looking back, my mind separated my life into lives, if that makes sense : imagine a succession of before and after, before and after… Tricky, right?
For years I thought that it wasn’t quite right, because as much as people love urging others to move on, dwelling on is somehow expected. One must not dare be happy too soon after a loss, because really, isn’t it heartless? In my experience, it is not. This does not mean that I never burst into tears for no reasons other than a trigger song or situation, but I don’t let the past define my whole self : parts of me will never forget, my personality is built upon it, but I refuse to live a life full of regrets. If I’m being completely honest, I can be quite horrible about that : as unfair as it may be, we tend to judge people by our own standards, and I know that one of my biggest flaw lies in my lack of patience for sad rambling going on and on and on. Perhaps that’s why this novel fascinated me so much. Thought-provoking, see?
Anyway, now that we have demonstrated than I’m an asshole, let’s go on, shall we?
As I’m having a hard time defining what this story is, let’s take a look at what it’s not :
✘ It is not our typical YA romance – actually, it’s not a romance, period.
✘ It is not our typical YA scifi, either : no aliens, no ships in space, no time travel, no – well, are there other kinds of YA scifi really? (I’m kidding, I think??!) Yet the story takes place in the future and contains scientific advances we have yet to experience.
✘ It is not our typical coming of age story, but it definitely features some of the themes we often find in them : aren’t they all about discovering who we are?
✘ It’s not our typical YA thriller either, and THANKS GOODNESS. I’m not sure I’d survive another TSTL road-trip with no cops in sight and teenagers making stupid decisions. We keep turning the pages in hopes of finding out the truth, though, so that has to count for something.
Now, does a book need to follow a genre guideline to have an impact? I don’t think so. Prior to Goodreads, I never really bothered with genres, actually [insert the sound of my Literature teacher screaming]. Look, I followed a course in my second year of Uni called something like, “Genres in Literature”
– Most. Boring. Course. Ever.
Since my childhood I’ve always been an avid reader, but all this organizing, compiling tropes stuff never failed to tire me. Above that, I genuinely think that sometimes, it hurts Literature as a whole. Honestly, it’s all incredibly pretentious, and many readers around the world just do not care. I may be an hypocrite, because I use genre-related shelves here in Goodreads, but sometimes I miss the time when I didn’t know of this neat organization and opened a book without having any idea of its genre (and of what it’s about, for that matter). That’s marketing for you : now you cannot help but notice it, except in the “French Literature” shelves in bookstores around here, which happily mix every kind of genres (of course I love that).
The strength of Change Places with Me definitely lies in its eerie atmosphere : if we know that something’s off from the start, we can’t pinpoint what it is, and the quest of answers – both for Rose’s questions and ours – proves to be at the heart of the story. If I guessed many facts early on – especially because it shares similarities with a novel I read last year (view spoiler) – it didn’t really bother me, as my interest lay in the way Rose would react to these answers more than the answers themselves.
If you know me, you know that I’m forever complaining about my complete inability to enjoy a book when I don’t care about the characters, but this novel makes a liar out of me : far be it from me to suggest that Rose isn’t an interesting and complex character, because she is. However, I didn’t connect with her on a strong level. Yet I was completely okay with it as it was never detrimental to the story, but quite the opposite.
▶ Talk about a good surprise, really.