What starts off as a fantastic premise with a difficult main character, turns lackluster because of a lack of side character personality and the ending.
Teva only has a few more months to live. In a matter of time, a new Teva will break free from her skin, take over her friends, and go to school. This current version of herself will be forced to stay at home and watch as the future Teva moves forward. This is how it has been for sixteen years. But no longer. Sixteen will not go quietly. She is determined to figure out why her family is made up of thirteen other selves and her mother, and how she can escape and pursue her dreams.
The premise of the novel absolutely hooked me – living with your former selves and coming to terms with having to ‘shed your skin’ and relinquish control of your life to a future self. It sounds gripping: a story of self-acceptance, suspense, and action, especially as the sixteenth version is unwilling to let go. Without knowing why, and being isolated from help, this current Teva must not only figure out her identity, as a teenager (and all the problems that comes with), but also why she is the way she is, and how she can move forward without losing herself.
The Main Character
Because of this, Teva has a difficult relationship with basically everyone. Her mom is unwilling to tell her the truth or allow her to tell others. The past versions of herself, fifteen especially, have varying levels of dislike and their own problems: stuck in that age forever and completely isolated. Her friends and boyfriend seem to realize something has happened, but cannot put their fingers on what has changed. She feels that her life is slipping out of her control, and it is.
I appreciated both of these aspects on their own, but there were many things I could not come to terms with. First off, there is a discussion of mental illness that I feel is insensitive to those suffering from that particular condition. Additionally, there is a trigger warning for self-harm.
Secondly, it was difficult to like Teva for a while. Her character is extremely complicated, but for the most part, she remains self-centered. Perhaps that is ironic, since she is literally trying to save herself, but it kept me from really connecting with her. Maybe this is also a question of age difference. I know when I was sixteen I was self-absorbed, more so than now, but I like to think I would have made up for it with other qualities (isn’t that all of our hope though?) While her character undergoes a transformation that ultimately saves her, in my opinion, it is a little late. So overall, I feel even conflicted about my feelings regarding Teva. On the one hand, I can understand her self-absorption, but on the other, it goes over the top, for me, and does not result in my emotional attachment until it’s too late.
The Side Characters and Ending
I was disappointed with the side characters. There were many instances where they could have been more unique, instead of plot devices. For example, her best friend, Maddy, is Indian, but all we get to know about her is that she is extremely smart and beautiful. I do not want to spoil the plot, but there are a few incidents where there is a possibility for more discussion that I wish had been taken.
Additionally, I wanted more mentions of the other, and younger, selves of Teva. Family is a large theme in the book because her mother rationalizes that the reason they cannot tell anyone is that they would be split up, treated as a family of freaks. Yet I did not truly get a sense of family from them. In this area, I felt it was lacking scenes of their family life.
However, one of my main complaints is the ending. I will not spoil it for you, except to say that it is wrapped up tidily and conveniently. If you have read it, I am sure you could agree. Perhaps I was unrealistic, but I was expecting more depth.
Even though I’ve listed quite a few complaints, overall reading the story was an enjoyable experience because of Teva’s journey as a character. By the end, I was witnessing the kind of transformation I was longing from at the start. I am not saying I want my characters to be perfect, far from it, I adore imperfect characters. All I am saying is that in their imperfections, I want to be able to connect with them.
In general, I enjoyed the plot the most because of the concept. Additionally, by the end I was truly rooting for Teva. If you are interested in a novel that truly pushes the concept of change, with a younger adult protagonist, then I still think this may be a fit for you.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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