Who am I? Teen grapples with a world turned upside down

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
 

Flip
By Martyn Bedford
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 2989 6

One December night, 14-year-old geek Alex goes to bed after a rather uninteresting day at school and home. When he wakes up the following morning, he doesn't quite feel right.

His body feels strange and his bed is not as comfortable as usual. Why is he wearing a T-shirt that he has never seen before? And why is there a woman downstairs calling out for somebody by the name of Philip? There is definitely something odd going on.

When Alex looks in the mirror, he sees another face staring back at him. He looks down and sees a body that does not belong to Alex Gray. It takes all the strength he can muster not to scream out loud in total panic. Alex has woken up in a different body, a different house and, given the non-December-like sun shining outside the window, a different time of year.

In a daze, he staggers downstairs, to be greeted by a woman he does not know and a dog that growls at him angrily.

The morning turns from strange to frightening as Alex realises the body he has woken up in is that of another boy called Philip Garamond, but before he has time to analyse this petrifying situation, he is caught up in the daily routine of Philip's life and forced to go with the flow.

Philip is two-timing a couple of girlfriends, plays cricket brilliantly, smokes and is one of the stars of the school he attends. Alex is musical, not sporty and doesn't know the first thing about the opposite sex. To add to the horror, Alex discovers that his own body is in a coma in a hospital hundreds of kilometres away, after a hit-and-run car accident.

He has no choice but to continue with the pretence of being Philip until he finds the answer to this nightmare.

If you think that a novel about a teenager trapped in another teen's body can only be run-of-the-mill stuff with nowhere new to go, Flip will knock you sideways.

This debut young adults' novel by Martyn Bedford is a brilliant, totally gripping psychological thriller that is impossible to put down. Bedford is an experienced adult novel writer and it shows.

The strength of Flip lies in the writing as Bedford builds up Alex's reactions to his situation. The characterisation is brilliant, and any reader would empathise totally with Alex. Bedford gets us to invest fully in Alex and go along on the roller-coaster ride he has to take.

The worry with a novel as excellent and as involving as Flip is that the ending may not live up to what has been built over the previous 300 pages. Is Bedford capable of delivering an ending and explanation that will live up to expectations? Fortunately, there's no need to panic. The tension throughout the novel is capped off with a dramatic ending that no reader will see coming. Flip is an extraordinary book with a thrilling plot and superb characters. An outstanding read.

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com

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