Wednesday, April 8, 2020

When I Was You by Amber Garza

WHEN I WAS YOU is a really, really difficult book to talk about without spoilers. It's about a woman named Kelly Medina who finds out about another Kelly Medina living in town when she gets a telephone call from a doctor about the other Kelly's baby appointment by mistake (HIPAA violations, anyone?). Intrigued, Kelly #1 sets out to find Kelly #2, and gets curiously obsessive about Kelly #2 and her young son, Sullivan.

As the chapters go on, we're fed history about Kelly #1 in bits and pieces. Kelly's relationship with her husband is strained and her son is distant. She's had mental health problems in the past and currently seeing a therapist. Now in her forties and suffering what seems to be a midlife crisis, Kelly #2, a young woman in her twenties on the cusp of motherhood, seems like a chance to live vicariously through her past and right all of her wrongs.

...until things start to get sinister, and dark truths are revealed about both Kelly #1 and Kelly #2 that will make you question not just who is right, but also who is real.

I'm a huge sucker for mysteries about dysfunctional ladies (putting the "FUN" in dysfunctional, one might say). Give me a cheesy mystery, and I will scoff it down like cheese off a charcuterie board. WHEN I WAS YOU is a cut above some of the other dysfunctional lady mysteries I've received recently and I actually do think that the comparison to Caroline Kepnes's book is somewhat accurate because Kelly #1 addresses her obsession with Kelly #2 to Kelly #2 in second person.

The plot is like something you might expect to see in a Gillian Flynn novel, but the writing quality is a few notches down from G-Flynn, more on par with authors like Janelle Brown (author of PRETTY THINGS) or Katherine St. John (THE LION'S DEN). I like to describe books like these as the "beach read" take on mysteries, which is definitely not an insult. I feel like all three books tackle issues that are unique to women, and have a more accessible style of writing that feels chatty and relaxed. But this book is hardly light. It went places I wasn't sure it would go, and ends on a chilling note.

I think WHEN I WAS YOU will easily find its audience among the mystery crowd when it comes out. It's a fun book. Maybe it's not highbrow fare, but I'm pretty sure being highbrow all the time gives you wrinkles, anyway, and the breakneck pacing and unhinged main character will keep you flipping pages as you desperately read on to find what she'll do next.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!   

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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