Title: Becoming Bryn
Author: Angela Carling
Publisher: Acacia Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 310 pages
For months, Jesse has been envious of her twin sister Bryn and even has a crush on Bryn’s gorgeous, popular boyfriend, Quinton. When Jesse awakens from a coma to learn that everyone thinks she IS Bryn, the option of actually taking over her sister’s life is beyond tempting, but there’s a downside. She’d have to give up Ethan, her best friend and the only person she trusts. Could she actually live as Bryn for the rest of her life? And if her family and friends found out, would they ever forgive her?
If I had known today that I would take the first step toward the biggest mistake of my life, I would’ve stayed home.
I knew before reading this book what it was about, but for some reason about a quarter of the way through I started resenting the book. I lost a sister – not my twin, but she was a twin – and this caused a decade of issues between my mother and me. It was hard for me to continue reading, reflecting on what my life had been like losing a sister, compared to how Bryn’s family is taking it in: in particular the references to Bryn being the favored (and perhaps more loved?) daughter.
Finally, my true feelings, the ones that I’d been denying for a good three months, gave way and I whispered, “I want to be loved like that.”
I became peeved at the ease in which Jesse seemed to take over Bryn’s life. Besides having to learn how to wear popular clothing (that matched!), accessorize, and amp up the make-up skills, it seemed like a piece of cake….at first. And that’s when I got hooked. My attitude about this book and Jesse’s character – and Bryn’s for that matter – completely changed, and I think it is because Angela Carling did an interesting thing in this book.
My parents had always told me that life isn’t fair. Apparently neither was death.
Many people believe in some form of an afterlife after people pass away, that loved ones have a place to go. Many people also believe in spirits/ghosts of some sort who hang around taking care of unfinished business. Carling incorporates both of these ideas into her novel, and creates a defined place for what this afterlife looks like. There are alternating chapters between Jesse and Bryn, in which Bryn explains the composition of the afterlife, and gets to view Jesse – and all those in her life – through an observation window. She is able to change the view in which she sees Jesse, and pan to other people at different locations. Bryn is not alone: she meets and elderly woman named Tu and a young girl named Summer, who are deadies like Bryn, that wait with Bryn and help her ease into the new transition of the afterlife. Tu and Summer teach Bryn things, help her realize things. And they wait with Bryn to see how Jesse’s new life will play out.
By taking over Bryn’s life, I was supposed to be improving people’s lives, not making them worse.
Most importantly, Bryn learns she can send Jesse messages through Jesse’s dreams. This is what she does to send Jesse to her own journals, where she wrote all manner of things down every day – right down to the exact outfit she wore. Through these journals, Jesse could have learned the truth about Bryn’s life before it was too late – before more mistakes were made. But all of these things come to a head, and through Bryn’s journals, Jesse discovers her sister in a new light. Bryn is no longer an artificial, popular girl. She’s a girl who was proud of her sister, inspired by her sister, who took a job to donate money to a very worthy cause for something much-needed. In a lot of ways, Bryn wanted to trade lives with Jesse, which is how they ended up where they are after trading costumes at Halloween.
At least, if Jesse was going to steal my identity, she was finally starting to do it with some guts and that made me proud of her.
Throughout the novel, Bryn experiences growth in her dead state, and Jesse also experiences growth. I don’t think this novel would be complete without Bryn’s commentary and visions from the afterlife, through the observation window. Initially, she is pissed that her sister is trying to take over her life, that once the injuries from the accident have healed, her sister is not speaking up about her true identity. But being a woman, she thinks she has the last word: Quinton isn’t the perfect boyfriend like Jesse thinks – let her find out the hard way! But Bryn has a change of heart, and in the end tries desperately to intervene and finish her business on earth through Jesse…or at least steer Jesse in the right direction. Bryn is definitely more than meets the eye.
As the novel was wrapping up, I saw a distinct turn of events that I knew were going to end badly, but Carling had some tricks up her sleeve, and she was able to pull off something flawless through Bryn’s journals. I thought I had it all figured out, and then a sweet twist got thrown in.
My one “aaaarrrrggghhh!” moment with this book was at the point when Jesse’s mom shares a personal story of how she actually ended up marrying their father – and the mistakes she made and the consequences she has lived with. She tells Jesse that you can change your life, but that doesn’t make the consequences disappear. Instead of heeding this advice and mirroring it in the romantic way it was intended, Jesse totally disregards it and does what she wants: pursue’s Bryn’s no-good, lying, cheating rich, gorgeous boyfriend Quinton. That was my only real beef. I feel that she didn’t try hard enough pursuing her other option, giving it enough time to come to fruition before jumping the gun and settling…on a bad choice.
About the Author
I was born and raised in Palm Springs, California and after living in several different states ended up back in yet another desert in Arizona, where I reside with my husband, three kids and five cats. We’ve now lived here for ten years and haven’t melted yet, although we have fried eggs on the sidewalk. We love to escape to our cabin in the mountains or to my favorite place, the beach. I have several obsessions, including my passion for all kinds of music and my inability to stop buying cheap jewelry. I am often caught singing in public bathrooms, just for the acoustics, or rollerblading through my neighborhood while singing loudly to whatever is playing on my iPod. I love to have lots of flowers in my garden and shiny things in my house. My favorite holiday of all (going along with the shiny things theme) is Christmas. All in all, I consider myself the luckiest, most blessed person alive and am so happy to have this opportunity to write and also to share my writing with other people!