December 06, 2011

2011 Cybils: Flip, by Martyn Bedford

We don't have a lot of Cybils books by British authors, but I'm always a bit pleased when we do have them, because for once I can cruise down to the library and get my hands on them before many of my other Cybs teammates! Author Martyn Bedford is actually a fairly well-known British author - for adults. This is his first novel marketed to young adults.

Reader Gut Reaction: Surprisingly, this novel is a little freakier than Freaky Friday, which I always thought was unrealistically lighthearted. If you woke up in someone else's body... frankly, twin squeals would not get it. Who wants to be their mother? With no idea of how long it'll last, and why it happened, I wouldn't be trying to imagine ways to get my mother to take my calculus test - I'd be frantically trying to get... her... OUT.

I imagine that it would be even worse if the body in which you awakened wasn't a friend or relative's, but a stranger's...

(British Cover)
Concerning Character: I like Alex. He is genuine, a "swotter," a clarinetist, and he's brave. When faced with waking up in a boy named Phillip's body, he's justifiably terrified, but he's canny enough not to fall completely apart -- not at first, at least. His increasingly desperate actions really ratchet up the tension level in the novel as he becomes someone who is at first willing to go along with things, later, willing to try almost anything to be home with his family... and then, finally, willing to try anything at all, with no qualifiers.

The classmates, girlfriends, and friends Alex meets while inhabiting Phillip's body are ... not as dull as Phillip's sister might think, but not as sharp as they could be, either. Clearly, in Phillip's life, there's been nothing but sports and girls. He is popular and good looking, well-liked and well regarded, despite his dismal grades and underachiever status. Alex struggles to figure out how to be someone like Phillip, first physically, then socially. Eventually, the behavior Alex assumes to be Phillip's comes easier and easier... but is it really Flip he's turning into? Or, a more less version of himself?

(U.S. Cover)While Alex is casting about for answers, he runs across an older guy who seems to have some... and at first, he's a comfort. Then, Alex wonders what he's gotten himself into.

I didn't think I'd like this novel - I mean, Freaky Friday as I've said: been there, and they've Disneyfied that. But, this is much deeper... a search for both identity and answers. I'm not surprised that this book is an ALA 2011 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. It's a mystery I couldn't put down.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Well, we've already covered Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers, I Will Fear No Evil, by Robert Heinlen, and at least two or three R.L. Stein novels like, The Barking Ghost. This is a true science fiction novel, because the idea of "what if?" is riding right out in front of the plot.

(Canadian Cover)Themes & Things: Body swapping is a trope because it's based largely on longing to be someone else. All over fiction, in movies and in books and on TV the theme is repeated. Bedford actually explores this really thoroughly in Flip and both the upside of having someone else's body (with some hilarity), face, and wardrobe are explored and the downsides as well. People are like homing pigeons - we know where home is, and the obvious thing to give ourselves comfort, when we're feeling six kinds of crazy from finding ourselves in someone else's body, would be to go home... but, what will the people there think? That you're a crazy person? Or worse?

Bedford coins the term "psychic evaluation," and I had to Google it to just to make sure it wasn't real - that tells you how disturbing this book is, and how far it goes to capture the imagination, shake it up, and return it to its proper place, a lot more nervous, and a bit shaken. FLIP is a well-paced and tautly written, thoughtful psychological thriller.

(Italian Cover) Cover Chatter: This is a most successfully covered book, let me tell you. Apparently the imaginations of the design teams were truly captivated. In the hardbound British version I read, even the chapter numbers are backwards, reflecting the flip that has taken place in Alex's life. I like the Canadian cover the very best, because the character of Flip is adorable, and his hair has the look of it might be stylish, with the judicious application of product, which is something that Alex struggled with in the story. The Italian cover is the most unique - both faces are striking on their own, but when put together, there's a Beauty & the Beast moment happening. Even the Dutch illustrated cover depicts a pivotal moment from the text. Recently Bedford announced that there will be a Chinese language edition. I cannot imagine what they'll do!

You can find FLIP at an independent bookstore near you!


aquafortis said...

Ooh, sounds REALLY exciting--I kind of want to read it right this second! The guy on the Canadian cover kind of looks like Jesse Eisenberg to me...

Ms. Yingling said...

Glad you enjoyed this one! I appreciate seeing the other covers, as well as the additional info on Bedford.