Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flip by Martyn Bedford

When 14 year old Alex Gray goes to sleep the night of December 21 and wakes up one June morning in the body of another boy, Philip Garamond (known as Flip to his family and friends), he is completely freaked out. What has happened to him? How did he get inside another boy's body? Where has he been the past SIX months of which he has no memory? And where is HIS body?

Eventually Flip learns the truth about his situation. Alex, the victim of a hit and run, is in a coma in London and has been for the past six months. Somehow, Alex has switched bodies with Philip.

Alex as Flip (Philip) explores the next few months of life,inside the body of Flip, whose life is so completely different from that of Alex. He lives in a different town, goes to a good school and lives with Philip's family who is well to do. But try as he might, Flip cannot adjust to living Philip's life. Philip is everything Alex is not. He is popular, athletic, very healthy and he has two girlfriends. But Philip is also a player and Alex is not like this.

Alex eventually discovers via the internet that he's not the only one who has experienced "psychic evacuation" - that is a soul switching bodies. But unlike the others who have experienced this situation, Alex's original body is still alive. Although he tries to live in Flip's body, he doesn't behave like Flip, he doesn't have the same interests as Flip and he doesn't want Flip's life. He also comes to realize that the nightmares he's having are a sign that Philip is fighting for his body too.

For Alex, it becomes a question of integrity, and how he lives his life.

"If he allowed himself,he could imagine things continuing like this. Merge his life with Flip's. Accept the switch, adapt and move on -- like the others of his kind had done. Carry on being Philip Garamond, or at least the new, modified Alex-as-Flip he was starting to turn into. With Alex's spirit in Flip's body, he could stay in Litchbury....complete his education at a good school...After that, a long, healthy life to look forward to, another sixty, seventy years, maybe. He could be whatever, and whoever, he liked.
But that wasn't being himself. Being properly himself. That life would mean living a lie. Lying to himself every hour of every day, for as long as it took Flip's body to die. Lying to the Garamonds. To everyone he met or worked with or became friends with in the many years to come."
Eventually Alex must make a decision about whether to stay or to try to find a way back to his own body.

The inside flap of this book states that it deals with questions of identity, the will to survive and what a person is willing to sacrifice to remain alive. Indeed Flip does push the reader to explore all of these questions. Flip also forces the reader to explore metaphysical questions. When Alex, in Flip's body climbs a rocky cliff he thinks about jumping and wonders "If he died in Flip's body, where would his soul go?"

I enjoyed this book immensely. Unlike Amy By Any Other Name, Flip has a happier ending, although with a bit of a twist. Sometimes I felt that I knew more about Philip Garamond than who Alex really was. But Alex's personality is revealed gradually. It was obvious that the tremendous contrast between rich kid Philip who had a tendency to be superficial towards others was in deep contrast to Alex who cares about the people in his life. It is this characteristic of Alex's personality that leads him to make the decision that he does.

The only thing I found a bit of a drawback in my reading experience was the author's use of English colloquialisms that Canadian teens might not be familiar with. Otherwise, an enjoyable read and a book I highly recommend.

Book Details:
Flip by Martyn Bedford
Doubleday Canada 2011
258 pp.

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