I’m Not Her by Cara Sue Achterberg (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
I’m Not Her is a body-swap story, which makes it a combination of fascinating and terrifying. What would it be like to suddenly “be” someone else—to live in that person’s body instead of your own and to have to be her, day in and day out, for better or for worse?
Carin is an attractive, spoiled, well-heeled young woman who looks down her aristocratic nose at Leann, the morbidly obese young cashier at the local grocery store. Leann leads a tough, impoverished life, and she has no use for the skinny, snotty Carin who buys organic food and puts on airs. When an accident in the checkout lane causes the two women to swap bodies and identities, but maintain their own personalities, the adventure for both of them begins.
Some of it is predictable. Carin learns what it’s like to be shunned because of her physical appearance, and she comes face-to-face with the realities of survival at the bottom of the social ladder. Leann, meanwhile, finds that possessing good looks and money is no guarantee of eternal happiness. Their lives are further complicated by Leann’s precocious and lovable five-year-old son, Trevor, whom Carin in her new role comes to love and wants to nurture and protect, while Leann realizes she cannot live without him and must get him back, even if she no longer looks like the mother he loves. Leann’s low-life husband provides added tension and danger to Carin’s new life and Trevor’s safety.
Both Carin and Leann take turns narrating their experiences as they attempt to negotiate the lives and relationships of their new identities. The author does a good job of giving each her own distinct voice and personality, which they maintain throughout the book even as we watch them grow and change within their awkward circumstances. Meanwhile, Carin’s family and friends must cope with her new honesty unfettered by fake niceties, while Leann’s abusive husband finds his wife’s not so submissive anymore.
My one complaint is the ending, which leaves a bunch of loose ends and implies a future that feels a little too simple after such major upheavals for both women and their acquaintances. But since the entire thing is a fantasy, suspension of disbelief and assumption of a rosy future may not be all that much to ask.
Grandma gives I’m Not Her four stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.