BOOK REVIEW: I'm Not Her by Cara Sue Achterberg

Sometimes it's all too easy to say 'if I were you...'. Many of us are guilty of making assumptions about the lives of others, even strangers. In I'm Not Her by Cara Sue Achterberg, an accident causes two very different women to swap bodies.

A bit like Freaky Friday, you might think. Well, kind of. But this novel is less of a comedic, feel-good tale. Instead, it's gripping. At times heartbreaking.

Despite Carin Fletcher and Leann Cane seeing each other regularly at the supermarket, to one another they are strangers. To Carin, Leann is the slovenly, obese checkout girl, and to Leann, Carin is obnoxious. However, after an accident at the Shop N Save, the pair wake up to find that not only have they somehow swapped bodies, they've effectively swapped lives.

Before the accident, Carin had the life most young women dream of. A college degree, a good job, a nice apartment, a caring handsome boyfriend and an enviable, gorgeous body. Healthy, pretty and perhaps a little self-absorbed. Carin is beautiful - something which Leann has never felt. That is, until she sees herself as Carin.

Meanwhile, Carin is discovering that Leann's life is way more troubling that she had ever envisioned. Not only is Leann terribly unhealthy and overweight, she is also extremely poor, with an abusive boyfriend who, thankfully, is rarely at the tiny, scarcely-furnished apartment she calls home. It's clear that Leroy is up to no good, but just what is he hiding?

To Carin's surprise, Leann has a young son, Trevor, who seems to be the only positive thing in Leann's life. Other than that, she is penniless, unattractive and trapped.

As Leann remains in Carin's body, her only downside being Carin's overly-concerned and protective mother and boyfriend who are trying to work through the sudden change in behaviour, Carin is working Leann's low-paid job, trying to get used to her large frame and lack of fitness, and having to deal with abuse on a daily basis. Not just from Leann's mother, Leroy and her teenage babysitter, but the stares and silent judgement of others. The stares that Carin herself would give, wondering how this woman could allow herself to be that big, so unconcerned about her appearance. Just hours into being Leann and it's all starting to make sense.

Understandably, Leann doesn't want her own life back, although she misses Trevor. And with both women unsure of whether they'll ever be back in their own bodies, it's time for them to face the possibility that the change could be permanent.

Carin is determined to get Leann out of her terrible home life - not just for her, but for Trevor. Before it's too late.

Cara Sue Achterberg brings forward an exciting concept and explores it perfectly in I'm Not Her. The two women are so different, living in what feels like different worlds; Carin pretty and privileged, Leann living in poverty, assuming that her life and the regular put-downs she receives from family and co-workers are simply normal. The novel is narrated by both characters, although the majority of the book focuses on Carin as she navigates life as Leann, a woman she once pitied as she worked behind the checkout.

I don't want to give too much away, but this novel is addictive, sad, and wonderful at the same time. It makes you think, makes you wonder about those around you. I warmed to Carin early on in the book as her initial selfishess turned to realisation, and hard work. I found it difficult to like Leann, though it was obvious that her ways were not truly her fault. Towards the end of the novel I became a little more fond of her.

I saw this title on Netgalley and was curious; let's face it, what would you do if you woke up in someone else's body? I had a feeling I would like this book, but it was a lot more interesting than I thought, and I couldn't put it down. It's a brilliant novel.

Rating: 5/5

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