________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 20 . . . . May 29, 2009

cover Amy by Any Other Name.

Maureen Garvie.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2009.
248 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-142-1.

Sbject Headings:
Accidents-Juvenile fiction.
Change (psychological)-Juvenile fiction.

Teenage girls -Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Joan Marshall.

***Ĺ /4


A physiotherapist comes and moves parts of me around. It hurts and I resist, but after she goes, I think I should have been more co-operative. I have to get out of here. I try to remember what she did and repeat it on my own, but my arms donít even feel like theyíre mine. Thereís casts on both of them. I can lift them a little but it hurts so much.

It takes me days to even get one arm up high enough to see my fingers. Thereís only an inch or so stuck out of the plaster. I wiggle them.

Theyíre white and thick and swollen, and thereís dried blood on the cast. Disgusting. They donít look like my fingers ĖĖ ďpianistís fingersĒ, my gran always said, though even that didnít make me practise.

I catch sight of the cuticles ĖĖ bitten, nasty looking. How did that happen?

But the thing that really weirds me out is the glimpse I get of nail polish. Horrible purplish-black and chipped. Fingernails of the damned.

I struggle to lift my arm again. Did I really see that? I did. I stare and stare. I donít wear nail polish ĖĖ Iím a jock, a rower. Is this someoneís idea of a joke?

Sixteen-year-old Amy Wexford, tall, blonde, strong, successful rower, with her life under control and organized, suffers a diving accident at a quarry near the family cottage. Krystal Marques, an out-of-control foster child, accidentally steps in front of a truck on the same day. In the rush towards death, the girlsí souls collide and are drawn back to their shattered bodies by dedicated hospital personnel. Unfortunately, the wrong bodies.

     In Krystalís body, Amy cannot convince anyone she is Amy. Horrified by what she begins to learn about Krystalís past, Amy struggles towards physical wellness and health, building a relationship with her guardians, Krystalís grandparents, and achieving the high marks necessary for a university scholarship. She even takes up coxing for a rowing team. Eventually, she succeeds in contacting Krystal, who in Amyís body, canít finish high school but has begun a modelling career. Although Amy longs for her former self and Krystal jealously guards her new-found reality, both girls realize that they can only go forward to meet the future.

     In spite of its new-age premise, this book is an urgent, canít-put-it-down read, featuring powerful, fascinating characters and thoughtful ideas.

     Readers will be drawn instantly to the beautiful Amy whose strength of character allows her to not only cope with the aftermath of a devastating accident but to set goals to change Krystalís life for the better. As she struggles with the horror of Krystalís unhealthy habits and body, Amy (who changes her name to Mia) also learns to love Krystalís avo and ava and to support Raymond (aka Loco), Krystalís skater boyfriend. Even as she goes to the University of Toronto on scholarship, Amy longs for her mother and her former friends, still hoping to eventually re-connect. Itís interesting that it is Krystal who teaches Amy that this idea is impossible.

     Krystal initially appears to have won the lottery. However, she does not have the drive to finish high school, and her success rests in her use of Amyís body as a model. She and Loco (or Loki), now a film studies student at Ryerson due to Amyís influence, gradually come together again. One of only two people in whom Amy has confided, Loki develops from an indifferent skater obsessed with movies to a partner of the beautiful model, Krystal. The other person who supports Amy in her struggles is Susan, a physiotherapist who becomes her friend and mentor. Krystalís Portuguese grandparents are exquisite cameos, their pain and pride and traditional way of life an open wound of suffering that Amy finally helps to close.

     This is a decidedly Canadian book, with Kingston and Toronto front and centre from the rowing teams to the coffee shops and the Canadian spellings. Readers will long remember this book for its fascinating ideas: can you turn your life around by changing your name and your habits? Can you influence your friends to change their lives? Can you learn to love older people who are strangers? What is the role of determination in achieving wellness after an accident? Can you let the past go and greet the future with open arms?

     Garvieís writing appears effortless. Amyís initial horror is palpable and will draw in any reader, reminiscent of the pain suffered by Andrew Davidsonís hero in The Gargoyle. The urgency of the first person narrative carries the reader forward, and the necessity for Amy to understand the people around her forces her to look at them more objectively. Garvieís hospital personnel are so accurate: busy, professional and paternal. Her charactersí voices are so realistic: Joan the unsophisticated yet loving foster mother; Susan the physio open to new ideas and taking unexpected chances; Loki the skater klutz, abused and suspicious yet totally loyal. The dialogue is modern and set completely in the present, the scenes between high school students absolutely dead-on. The action of the book occurs over three years, never bogged down in detail, always driving forward.

     Students who can suspend their disbelief about the body exchange will be well rewarded by an excellent YA novel.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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