Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Why Can't I Be You

By Melissa Amster

There have been times where someone has told me that I have a twin who lives in their hometown. Or they went to school with someone who looks exactly like me. I have yet to meet these "twins," but I always find the concept of doppelgangers intriguing. Just recently, I almost fell over in shock when I watched a video featuring a few authors and discovered that the one I've been connecting with online for the last year or so looked a LOT like me on video. I wouldn't mind being a published author like she is, but I wouldn't go as far as Jenny Shaw does in Why Can't I Be You, Allie Larkin's second novel.

Jenny Shaw is fed up with her life. She grew up as the only child of an abusive alcoholic mother, leaving her anti-social as a result. Her boyfriend dumps her right before she's about to leave for Seattle to go to a conference for a job she doesn't like so much anymore. So who could blame her when she decides to take on another woman's life? When she arrives in Seattle, a woman seems to think she's Jessie Morgan, a classmate who disappeared right after graduation. Soon everyone else in this woman's circle of friends thinks the same. Jenny finds that playing along allows her to have friends, escape her real life, and even find romance. When new information about Jessie's past rises to the surface, Jenny has to decide what kind of life she really wants for herself.

I need to first say that there was nothing I didn't like about this novel. Just like with Allie's previous novel, Stay, I was instantly drawn in and couldn't put it down. (Unless I had to because real life was beckoning.) I found Jenny to be easy to relate to, even though our lives were moving in opposite directions. I knew what it was like to not fit in when I was in high school, thus eliminating any reason to go to my class reunion. When she meets this group of people who had this tight friendship in high school and beyond, I even found myself feeling jealous of that. Allie depicts the characters so well that I feel like I'm sitting with Jenny, watching Myra, Heather, Robbie and Fish interact. I could totally see myself being friends with Myra, she seemed that real and genuine.

Not only does Allie create an interesting back story for Jenny, which explains why she makes the choices she does at this stage in the game, but she also adds a lot of intrigue about the elusive Jessie Morgan. We're trying to fill in the blanks at the same time Jenny is, all while she's trying to take on Jessie's identity. There's the feel of an "amnesia" novel, where someone loses their memory and is trying to figure out who they are. Except Jenny is totally aware that she's playing a role and she's trying to get as much information as possible in order to seem convincing. There's some information volunteering from the others that comes off as a bit forced at times, but it didn't bother me as the same thing would happen during an "amnesia" novel anyway.

The story moves at a quick pace and doesn't become dull at any point in time. It's a clever concept with which Allie took off running. Towards the end, I wasn't sure where the story would end up because I felt there was so much to tell and very little space with which to tell it. However, Allie left me ultimately satisfied with an ending that was realistic but not a downer. It was worth the (almost) three year wait since Stay came out. I highly recommend this novel and wish Allie lots of success with it.

The Hollywood geek in me just HAS to cast this novel as a movie. It would be so much fun to watch on the big screen with a group of girl friends.
Jenny: Emily Blunt
Myra: Zooey Deschanel
Robbie: Andy Samberg
Heather: Amanda Seyfried
Fish: John Krasinski

Thanks to Penguin for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. They're giving away some books at Allie's interview. (US/Canada only.)


Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice said...

I reviewed this today, too. Loved it! Reminded me of a John Hughs flick—13 years later. Happy Pub Day Allie!

The Book Chick said...

I loved this book and I love your casting choices, Melissa!!

I'm such a fan of both John Krazinski and Emily Blunt. Do you think that they would adopt me? LOL

Read Baby Read said...

I would love, love, LOVE A COPY of this book. Thank you for the opportunity! Xo

Valerie said...

I went to elementary school with a Katie and a Sarah. We three looked alike and were often mistaken for one another by our teachers. We still look pretty similar even now. I'm following on twitter. Valerieannfox(at)gmail(dot)com

Robyn said...

Loved this book and just found your blog. I love John Krasinski for Fish. I pictured Anna Kendrick as Jenny with Kate Mara as Jessie (they look a lot a like I think). I loved Robbie and I think that Chris Pratt would be great in that role with his real life wife, Anna Farris, as Heather. I agree with your choice of Zoey Deschanel as Myra. Can't wait for the movie!!