When I Was Me – Hilary Freeman

25399538 I know I’ve been MIA for a very long time in terms of blogposts. That’s because I’m getting to the end of my doctorate, and I’m basically snowed under with work. As well as that, I’ve taken on some extracurriculars which are just eating up my time, and I’m just not getting a chance to sit down and write blog posts and reviews. I know! It’s awful, and really frustrating, because I’ve read some books I really would like to discuss lately. So I’m going to make an effort to post at least a few more reviews in the next couple of months, but I’m making no promises. Doctorates are hard work!
In any case, I’m here today, so I may as well write this review up. Hot Key author Hilary Freeman’s parallel universe novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but it was incredibly gripping, and I raced through it.

When I Was Me – Hilary Freeman

One girl, two lives. Which is real?

When Ella wakes up one Monday morning, she discovers that she is not herself and that her life is not her own. She looks different, her friends are no longer her friends and her existence has been erased from the internet. Even worse, years of her history appear to have been rewritten overnight. And yet, nobody else thinks that anything weird has happened.

A tense and dark psychological thriller full of unexpected twists and turns about the random events and decisions that make us who we are. If you can’t trust your own memories, then who can you trust?

There’s something very interesting about a book which wonders what would have happened if one small change had been made back in your past – how would current you differ from alternate you? This is what happens to Ella, when she wakes up one morning in a bedroom (and a world) which is both identical to her own, and entirely different.
Told from the first person perspective, the reader is swept along with Ella as she tries to find out what the hell has happened, how things have changed, what’s going on, and where her friends and herself are – almost like waking up in some other girl’s life one morning and being expected to just carry on as normal, Ella is utterly bewildered and doesn’t know where to turn.

I don’t know if it’s a spoiler to mention that this book draws on the multiverse theory – that universes split on a coin toss, and Ella has somehow ended up in a parallel one to her own. I figured that was what had happened from the beginning, although obviously it took Ella herself longer to come to this conclusion. It was interesting, though, to see the juxtaposition of the things and the people Ella knew in her own life, and how they differed in the second Ella’s world.

I really enjoyed this book – I thought it was slightly strange, in a really brilliant way, and utterly gripping. The character-driven drama dragged me through the book as Ella tried to figure out how and why this happened and how or even if she could fix it. The whole way through the book I loved the twists and small reveals, as Ella tried to go about her own life, discovering along the way how different Ella 2’s life was, and realising she perhaps wasn’t as perfect as she appeared at first.
The ending of this book, also, really hit the right note for me. I didn’t quite see it coming, and was impressed with the way it panned out, turning the final page with a serious feeling of satisfaction.

There was just one thing that bothered me – and still does now, actually. What happened to the second Ella? Where did she go? How did her experience work out? Did she end up in a third universe, displacing Ella 3? I know it probably would’ve been too many threads to deal with another (almost identical) character being displaced in the same way as our Ella, but it just threw up a lot of questions for me about how and why and where and what happened. Still, though, in one way, I think that was part of the appeal of the book – there are lots of questions which cannot be answered, only pondered, really. Such is the mystery of science, and life.

I absolutely recommend this book, it was a really interesting read, and I fairly devoured it, over the course of two days. I’ll also be checking out some of Freeman’s back catalogue to see if it’s as good as this.

Four Stars

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