Title: It’s Not You, It’s Me
Author: Gabrielle Williams
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Published: August 31st, 2021
I’ll admit, body swap stories are a guilty pleasure of mine. There’s nothing quite like witnessing the misadventures of a character stumbling their way through someone else’s life while trying to feign normalcy—only to fail miserably but ultimately return to their body as a better person. So when I read the synopsis of Gabrielle Williams’ It’s Not You, It’s Me, you bet I was keen to dive in.
This novel begins as one might expect; 40-year-old Holly has just woken up in the body of Trinity Bryne and can’t quite piece together her disjointed memories now crammed alongside those of the 16-year-old body she now inhabits. But while swapping bodies is one issue, waking up in a different country 40 years in the past is another. As Holly tries to navigate this new life, lies and secrets reveal themselves, and she soon realises that she and Trinity may have more things binding them together than she originally thought. It’s Not You, It’s Me is a funny and quirky read about second chances presenting themselves in the most unlikely of situations.
Williams’ approach to this story is what originally captured my attention. Rather than featuring a young and spry protagonist typical of YA stories, readers are presented with 40-year-old Holly, an art teacher from Melbourne in the midst of a midlife crisis and a pandemic to boot. Yet while her exterior may now be fitting for a story directed towards young readers, the patience and maturity that define her as a character proved to be a welcome change. It’s not often, at least in my line-up of YA reads, to have a more mature protagonist take centre stage. But Williams does a wonderful job of creating a character that is relatable for its intended audience, but with that extra spark of wisdom and insight that comes from experience. Yet, while I appreciate what Holly had to bring, at times I found her character to be a little too adaptable to her surroundings so that the story steered into a more slice-of-life direction. While there’s nothing wrong with this, as a reader who enjoys the conflict that arises from swapping bodies, I was a little disappointed to see that factor used primarily for setting purposes as opposed to being the main source of conflict. This misalignment of expectations took some time to adjust to, but once I came to terms with what this story was really about, it became a much more enjoyable read.
It’s Not You, It’s Me is a fairly quick read, and while there were some areas I wish were developed a bit more, I enjoyed it. Gabrielle Williams takes a well-known trope and explores the question of ‘if you had the opportunity to change your fate and become someone else, would you take it?’ And, honestly, it made me appreciate what I have a little bit more. If you are a lover of body swaps or time travel, I definitely recommend picking this up. There are a lot of great moments that stood out to me, and if you enjoy spending time contemplating the ‘what ifs’ and the boundaries of such tropes, Gabrielle Williams touches on a number of great ideas that I would love to see explored in the future.