She, Myself, and I
by Emma Young
Having to watch a child’s life transition from one of never-ending promise and light into the creeping and unrelenting darkness of shadows is the very skeleton that worst nightmares are made of. Desperation has sent a London family across the pond to the brilliant medical minds of Boston, where they hope to find a solution to their problem. Rosa’s parents are hopeful and optimistic even though they are at the end of their ropes; it is critical that they do everything they possibly can and leave no stone unturned in their efforts to save their daughter.
Rosa’s body has been deteriorating since she was very young, but she did have a few years of a blessedly normal childhood before the robbing of her freedoms began. It almost makes it worse, being able to remember what it felt like to pedal a bike through the park or chase after an older brother. As a teenager she is completely immobile and confined to a wheelchair under the constant eye of her parents, and Rosa has been privy to each and every audacious betrayal of her body. Her brother provides a bit of welcome comic relief and familiarity, but he cannot take the place of the carefree friendship a best mate can provide, nor the tender kisses a relationship could bring. Rosa knows if she doesn’t go through the with the surgery, she will have no future. She will have nothing.
But is it worth it? The medical team in Boston has what they believe to be the cure for all that ails her — a new body. An actual new body. With medical advances allowing places around the world to transplant kidneys, hearts, arms, and even . . . heads, they feel confident that they can once again push the boundaries of science and transplant Rosa’s brain into that of a new body, rendering her “whole” once again. Rosa keeps having these terrible thoughts. . . that of Frankenstein and his sad and twisted monster, and she cannot help but be terrified that even if her brain is kept intact, that some part of her will be lost in the transition from broken to repaired.
With no choices left, Rosa has to take the plunge. She has to allow this to happen — or die. Putting her trust and faith in the team of doctors around her, she submits to their surgery.
As Rosa begins her new life in a new body, she can’t help but wonder about the person who used to inhabit it. Is it really so easy, to fit her brain into another skull, suddenly attach her feelings to another’s heart, breathe through foreign lungs, touch with hands previously used by someone else? Do all of these things now belong to her, free and clear? Is there such thing as a soul, and does the former inhabitant of this body still have some claim? Is Sylvia, the girl who had to die to Rosa could live, still lingering? Rosa’s mind won’t shut off and she finds herself caught in a sticky web of something almost like an obsession, not able to recognize herself in this new skin and fearful of the repercussions. Who was Sylvia before she died? Was she happy, did she love? Was she kind or was she a mean girl? What sort of adventures had this body had before Rosa was inserted inside of it? And can Rosa simply move on and live a life of normalcy, or will she forever be an invader in someone else’s private space?
In an attempt to wrap her mind around present circumstances, Rosa sets out to find out everything she can about her donor. With the help of a handsome journalist, she road-trips to the town Sylvia grew up in, anxious to weave her way into the places and people that helped mold the person who gave her life for hers. But it’s complicated — Sylvia is dead and no one knows about the transplant, not to mention Rosa is legally forbidden to initiate any contact with Sylvia’s mourning family. Unfortunately for Rosa, being able to move on with her life depends on knowing Sylvia from the outside-in, and so she throws caution to the wind and embarks upon an adventure of her own.
She, Myself, and I is the new novel by Emma Young, an award-winning journalist and author. While diving into the mind of a self-conscious and emotional teenage girl cannot be easy, I found that the author slipped into Rosa’s brain accurately and with the restraint that I would expect from a young lady who’s accepted that she was doomed to a life of nothingness, but then is given the chance of a lifetime. Rosa held back much of her emotions in a way that spoke to me, in that I felt at times that Rosa was afraid to embrace her panic and trepidation at the surgery and results, so she kept her feelings in check with as much control as she could muster. She almost seemed to shrink even further into herself, and with no medical precedent to truly help her navigate her complicated beliefs and feelings (and that of those around her), Rosa felt very much alone.
Despite that, I rate She, Myself, and I a 3 out of 4 stars. Reading that the author is well-versed in science and technology, as well as an expert in psychology, I was expecting. . . more. The transplant surgery in itself is extraordinary and revolutionary, and while I did not expect (nor want) a ton of science, I did expect more of an explanation on some aspects. Because Rosa was so shut off from her feelings, almost as if she was afraid a dam would break if she delved too deep, a lot of the plot around the surgery felt flat and one-dimensional. I also felt as if the author could have pushed more — more into the romantic relationship between Rosa and the journalist, more into the relationships between Rosa and her family, and definitely more into the relationships between Sylvia and HER friends/family. Rosa struck out on the trip to find answers, but I feel as if she returned with just as many questions. The closure was not complete for me, and a lot of the dialogue felt hollow.
All in all, I would recommend She, Myself, and I to readers 15+ due to some sexual content and mature situations.