Despite raves from several internet friends, I was unimpressed with Allie Larkin’s first book, Stay. Granted, this mostly had to do with the fact that I listened to it on audiobook, and the narrator was incredibly annoying, but I still think the story wasn’t as good as it could have been. I didn’t have that problem at all with her second book, Why Can’t I Be You, which is good because its premise was so out there that it could have gone horribly wrong at any moment.
Jenny Shaw accidentally takes over the life of a girl named Jessie Morgan when she hears Jessie’s name shouted across the lobby of hotel. Jenny is on a business trip and fresh from a painful break-up, so when she’s mistaken for Jessie (with a nose job, natch) at her ten year high school reunion, she finds herself playing along. She slips into Jessie “Fucking” Morgan’s life so easily that it begins to feel more like hers than her real life does, and with Jessie as her mask, it becomes a lot easier for her to fess up to things she’s been repressing for years. But even as Jenny’s guilt grows right alongside her desire to inhabit Jessie’s life permanently, things start to crop up, and it seems that Jessie had secrets of her own that come up to bite Jenny in the ass. And yeah, there’s sex and smoochies involved, so: bonus.
The back cover of Why Can’t I Be You reads like the pitch some hack studio executive thought up while trying to get butts into theater seats. You know the kind: a high concept idea (daughter switches bodies with mother! woman hires male escort to accompany her to a wedding! dead husband leaves notes that lead his widow on an adventure!) with no follow through. The kind of movie that when you see the trailer you think, Oooh, I want to see that, but then when you actually see it, it’s a hot fucking mess of cliched storytelling, bad acting, and barely a whisp of artistic integrity to be found. So, when I read said back cover, I was understandably wary. I’d been burned. Many times. (Though I never seem to learn my lesson — or maybe I’m just determined to remain an optimist.) I’m happy to say, though, that this is one high concept that follows through. I had so much fun reading it that I didn’t even blink an eye at all the disbelief I had to suspend while reading.
Read if you like romantic comedies, stories about regret and identity, and wish fulfillment fantasies.