Published by Balzer + Bray on June 14th, 2016
Genres: science fiction
ABOUT CHANGE PLACES WITH ME:
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.
Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of five novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
The only way to describe Change Places With Me is “odd.” The description on the jacket is deliberately vague, so I had no idea this was a science fiction novel. It’s set in the near future, so the world is very familiar, with a few additions like hydrobuses and moving tattoos. Now, just because this is classified as sci-fi doesn’t mean it’s all fast-paced action. This is actually a rather quiet novel.
The whole story has this unsettling undercurrent about it. From the very beginning, you can tell something is “off” but it’s not clear exactly what is wrong. This mystery is what kept the pages turning for me. I just absolutely had to know what was going on, what happened to Rose. Because Rose woke up one day and she was totally changed. Over the course of Part 1, the reader learns about all the strange ways her personality is different. Part 2 shows us who she was before. And Part 3 unravels the mystery and brings the two halves together. The story was clever and thought-provoking, but I can’t really get into why without spoiling. However, I can say that the unreliability of Rose’s perspective made it a lot of fun to try and figure out the side characters. Actions that Rose didn’t dwell on, that she dismissed, or that she outright hated – I knew there was more to the story so it made the book even more interesting, trying to figure out the truth.
The thing that was off-putting for me, and I suspect will be for a lot of readers, was the detached feeling – I couldn’t connect to the characters at all. I think a lot of that had to do with the writing style. The third person felt extremely removed from Rose and her emotions. I struggled to understand her, much like she struggled to understand herself. I don’t know if this would have been improved if it had been written in first person, or if maybe this was a deliberate choice the author made, but it did make it hard for me to care at times. Though I have to say I did love Evelyn, mostly because I have a soft spot for loving step-parents.
If you love mysteries and thriller contemporary YA, I would definitely recommend checking out Change Places With Me. It is science fiction, but it’s very, very light on the futuristic stuff. Instead, it is introspective and speculative, and asks interesting questions that I’m sure we’ve all been faced with when struggling with guilt or grief.