From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2011:
"Bedford packs so much exhilarating action and cleanly cut characterizations into his teen debut that readers will be catapulted headfirst into Alex’s strange new world...The mysteries are countless: What is a soul? Where does it go when its human host ceases to function? Bedford adeptly sweeps the existential curtain aside and tackles these heavy questions as the tension soars."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011:
"It’s an immediately engaging story, with careful pacing and strong characterizations that add depth to the basic premise...The author uses Alex’s predicament to examine questions of identity, family, and the human soul in ways that are involving and thought-provoking."
Adult novelist Bedford (The Houdini Girl) makes his YA debut with a moving tale that juggles realistic high school fiction with fantasy while deftly avoiding clichés from both genres. Teenage Alex wakes up one day to find that he has no memory of the past six months of his life and is stuck in the body of a teenager named Philip (nicknamed Flip). As he attempts to live his new life, he learns that his actual body is across the country, in a coma, and that there are others who have swapped bodies as well. Alex is torn between the opportunities a life in Flip's body offers—no asthma, gorgeous girlfriends—and the knowledge that this isn't really his life. Bedford does an excellent job of getting into the mind of a teenager, focusing less on the reason behind the switch than on Alex's concerns about how his friends and family (in both bodies) are affected by the situation. A few missteps—Alex's reluctance to avoid researching his own history being the most notable—don't make the story any less engrossing. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
What is it that truly makes a person who they are? That is something fourteen-year-old Alex wants to know. Somehow he has found himself in the wrong body and no one seems to realize it but him. The last moment he can remember is six months earlier. Now, he is suddenly a popular boy (his same age) named Philipliving on the other side of England. His attempts to contact old friends and his family turn up nothing but more questions and a few futile trips to the police station. With the help of an on-line group for those experiencing psychic evacuation (the term for people who have swapped souls in an effort to escape death) he finds the answers he is looking for. With a little gumption and a lot of risk he eventually sets everything right again and is much wiser and more self-aware than when his strange journey began. This is a psychological thriller that packs a dramatic punch while delving into deep, sensitive questions about God, death, identity and the nature of souls. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Alex wakes up in the body of a complete stranger—another 14-year-old boy named "Flip"—in this gripping novel. He soon realizes that it's been six months since he was "himself." While dealing with the immediate challenges of negotiating a strange new world, he tries to figure out what caused the switch, how he might reverse it, and what could possibly be going on with his own body. It's an immediately engaging story, with careful pacing and strong characterizations that add depth to the basic premise. Alex's experiences, though sometimes humorous, are never played strictly for laughs. The boy feels real urgency to contact his true family and the strategies and results of his attempts create real plot tension. New revelations keep the story moving forward swiftly, but never predictably. The author uses Alex's predicament to examine questions of identity, family, and the human soul in ways that are involving and thought-provoking. Alex acts and thinks in ways that most readers will identify with: he's confused, frustrated, and occasionally desperate, but, at the same time, is curious and thoughtful about his bizarre new life and family. He samples some of the benefits of being Flip, including a popularity that Alex never enjoyed, but always yearns to be himself again, which leads to an exciting and particularly satisfying climax.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Fourteen-year-old geeky musician Alex wakes up hundreds of miles from his London home in the body of Philip Garamond, a high-school soccer star and girl magnet nicknamed Flip. Though asthmatic Alex is intrigued by his new, fit body and the attention it draws, he soon realizes he's trapped in a new environment with new expectations that he can't live up to. Along the way he meets Rob, a veteran of the same condition—psychic evacuation—who decides to take Alex under his wing. Bedford packs so much exhilarating action and cleanly cut characterizations into his teen debut that readers will be catapulted headfirst into Alex's strange new world. They'll wince in pain as the police escort him from a vain attempt to reconnect with his real family and rally when he connects with a new girl whom Flip would normally never look at twice. They'll also wonder about Flip himself, who, besides Alex's nightmares, exists only in the expectations and memories of the people Alex encounters. The mysteries are countless: What is a soul? Where does it go when its human host ceases to function? Bedford adeptly sweeps the existential curtain aside and tackles these heavy questions as the tension soars. Alex has to figure out why his soul overtook Flip's body, and how—if at all—he can get back into his own before it's too late.(Thriller. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
Alex couldn't have said what woke him that morning. It might have been the weird dream, or Mum calling up the stairs, or the sunlight streaming into the room. He lay in bed with that leftover adrenaline feeling of having been jolted out of a nightmareit was forgotten the instant you woke up, but it vibrated in your mind like the aftershock of a slammed door. His legs were tangled in the duvet and his right arm was trapped beneath him, useless with pins and needles. He eased onto his back.
Another shout: "Come on, you're going to be late."
Late for what? It was a Saturday; he didn't have to be anywhere. She sounded odd, his mumshe had that familiar tone (I'm really losing my patience now), but there was something that he couldn't put his finger on. Probably she was just in one of her strops. Had Mum been cross with him when he'd come home the night before? Alex couldn't recall. As it happened, he had no recollection of coming in at all, but obviously, he must've done. The last thing he remembered was leaving David's at five to ten and running to beat his curfew. They'd spent the evening playing chess (he'd won), surfing YouTube, listening to the Killers. The usual.
He made a fist, then unclenched it. The pins and needles were gone but his arm still felt clumsy; all his limbs and joints seemed heavy. His mouth tasted foul. If he was coming down with something on the first weekend of the Christmas holiday, that would be so typical. But he didn't feel ill. He . . . well, Alex wasn't sure how he felt, exactly. Just out of sorts. A fragment of his nightmare resurfaced: a ladder, or a staircase, or a hillsomething steep, anywayand he was scrambling up it as fast as he could, with some creature grabbing at his feet, and Alex trying to kick himself free. What happened next, he didn't know. That must've been when he woke up. Maybe it was all to do with his legs being twisted in the bedding. "Philip! It's five to eight!"
No way could it be five to eight, with all this sunshine. More like ten or eleven. Alex turned to look at the alarm clock on his bedside table.
The clock wasn't there. Nor was the table.
Instead, there was a wall, and the wall wasn't blue and silver stripes anymore; it was a plain pale yellow. Now he thought about it, the daylight was coming in from the wrong angle. Alex sat up. The window wasn't where it should've been. Those weren't his curtains, either. That wasn't his wardrobe; those weren't his shelves; that wasn't his CD player; those weren't his posters (Basketball? Cricket?); and the carpet had been replaced by bare floorboards and a huge red and gold rug that looked like something out of Aladdin. Where were his clarinet stand, his music stand? How come his desk (which wasn't his desk and wasn't where it should have been) had a flat-screen PC on it? Why was his room so big?
Alex tried to figure out whose room this might bewhose houseand what on earth he was doing here. Why he was wearing another boy's T-shirt instead of his own pajamas. Why, in December, there was a thin summer duvet on the bed. And if that woman hollering up the stairs (again) wasn't his mother, whose was she? Philip's, presumably. Philip! she had shouted. Yes, it was Philip she was cross with, not Alex. In another bedroom, Philip was failing to get up in time for something. Philip was the key to this. The rational explanation. Dad reckoned there was a rational explanation for everything, even things that made no sense at all. UFOs, ghosts, Godthey're just the names people have come up with for stuff they haven't worked out yet.
So the rational explanation: on his way home from David's, Alex had dropped by Philip's place and ended up crashing there for the night. Now he'd woken up too dopey, too confused to remember having done so. Like when you go on holiday and the first morning, you wake up surprised to find yourself in an unfamiliar bedroom. The part of his brain that expected him to be in his own room, his own home, was disoriented, failing to compute the messages his eyes were sending. Any moment now, it would all come back to him. That was it: the logical, reasonable, rational explanation.
Which would've been fine if he'd known anyone called Philip.
This was a big house. Off the landing outside the bedroom in which he'd woken up, there were three other doors (all closed), one set of stairs leading down and a narrow staircase ascending to what he supposed must be a converted attic. He tried each of the doors in turn: two bedrooms and a bathroom. Called up the stairs. Nothing. No people. No sign of "Philip," although one of the bedrooms looked recently slept in. A girl's room, not a boy's. A gothic teenage-angst thing was going on in there. He went down to the ground floor, to a high-ceilinged hallway that gave on to a sitting room, with another room off that. Both empty. Radio sounds drifted up through the floor. The kitchen had to be down in the basement, which was where he'd find the woman who had been yelling up the stairs. Philip's mum. When he found her, Alex would discover the solution to the puzzle of where he was, and why.