When I was in junior high I was obsessed with Kurt Cobain. He was (in my eyes) a straight, tightly strung, musical string to my hyper hormone driven emo heart. He just…got me. While my friends pranced around listening to Boyz 2 Men and singing songs like “I’ll Make Love To You” on the bus (much to my teachers disdain) I would curl up with my journal and try to hash out the hidden meaning behind songs like “Come As You Are.” I wasn’t a social reject, I was just a little more conscience of the world around me.
Now, we all know how this story ends (or at least I hope you do) which is with me curled up in the fetal position crying like a lunatic. Looking back, I’ll be the first to admit, I might have been a tad melodramatic. But as an adult I maintain my love for him. The fact of the matter is, he taught me an incredible lesson at a very young age. A lesson that shaped the way I treated others, and myself when I got into high school. A lesson that I will teach MY children, and that is:
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
Jealousy is a fact of life. So are envy, admiration and resentment. You can’t control those emotions, but you can stop them for controlling you. Go ahead…envy a person’s looks. Covet their job. Be jealous of their easy way with people. But at the end of the day take stock of YOURSELF. Think about what other’s may admire about YOU. And then…BE yourself. Because you will never be more comfortable than you are in your OWN skin. Contributing your OWN thoughts, and sharing your OWN feelings.
In “Becoming Bryn,” Jesse learns this lesson two fold. That trying to be someone else not only wastes the person that SHE it, but also the person she is pretending to be. That sometimes…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. That looks can be deceiving and, an that you can’t truly understand a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Since apparently this review is all about “learning lessons” let me teach you another one I learned very early on in my blogging career. You cannot judge a book by it’s first 50 pages. In Becoming Bryn’s case, 57 pages. To be frank, until I read the final sentence of Chapter 13:
I was not a fan. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was reading a YA version of chick lit. (Oh….dreaded chick lit.) Lot’s of whining, not much substance. But with one sentence the entire story change, and suddenly…I found myself sucked in. I was no longer reading pages and pages of “she’s so pretty” “she’s so lucky” instead I was reading phrases like this:
A story that I had almost written off as mindless drivel morphed into an intriguing tale of bad choices. Of repercussions. Of misguided hope.
To make a long story short…Bryn is the popular one. Everyone loves her, everyone wants to be her. Jesse is the book nerd. One evening, fate deals them a pretty crappy blow and before she knows it Jesse has a choice to make. She can continue to be herself, or she can pretend to be her sister. Thinking life looks a looks peachier atop a pair of 4 inch heels, she chooses the latter. And this is where the story unfolds…Jesse becoming Bryn.
The interesting part however is not in the details of Jesse’s transformation, it’s in the realization that Bryn get’s to watch it happen.
Writing in companion narration (lordy I feel like I say that phrase a lot these days) Carling is able to do what most can’t. Create growth through death. Allowing Bryn the opportunity to see the aftermath of her untimely departure adds depth to the second half of the novel that was decidedly missing from the first. She is no longer focused on herself, therefore she gets to see the WHOLE picture. What people thought about her. How they react when she’s not looking. She also gets to see her sister clearly, for the first time. Separately these qualities fall flat, but throw them in a pot and stir it up, and you get a genuinely absorbing plot.
The same can be said for Jesse’s side of the story. Running with what she assumes instead of what she knows…spells disaster. And before she knows it she isn’t sitting high on Bryn’s marble pedestal, instead…she is struggling to hold it up.
In the end I can honestly say I was shocked. A story I had almost given up on morphed into a butterfly, leading me along a beautiful path of self-discovering and appreciation. It took envy and flipped it on it’s head, illustrating the dirty business “trading places” in a truly unique way.
Kudos to you Ms. Carling for challenging my patience. It paid off in the end.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs.